The news comes after construction was halted on Wednesday (Nov 15) after a crowd gathered at Surin Beach to meet with Cherng Talay Tambon Administration Organisation (OrBorTor) Chief MaAnn Samran and Thawee Homhuan, Chief of the Phuket Provincial office of the Department of Public Works and Town & Country Planning, demanding to hear some explanation of what was going on. (See story here.)
Arriving to inspect the beach firsthand was Sasin Chalermlarp, President of the Thai environmental group the Sueb Nakhasathien Foundation and also a consultant to the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources (DMCR), and his team from Bangkok as well as local DMCR experts who have long warned top Phuket officials, including the previous Governor, against the project.
“Officials in the Department of Public Works and Town & Country Planning have been working with an incorrect understanding [of this] for a long time,” Mr Sasin said.
“They surveyed beaches that were eroded and started this project. They claimed that strong waves from the monsoon caused beach erosion. But when officials from the DMCR inspected the beach, they found that this beach erosion is nothing to worry about, it’s just natural.
“We found that Surin Beach has many good areas. We still see sand dunes which have plants and trees. We rarely see sand dunes on others beaches. Surin Beach is a good example and the beach should not be changed the wrong way. The budget for seawall can be used to renovate the scenery behind the sand dunes and build public toilets,” Mr Sasin explained.
“The DMCR can use the law to force the project to be stopped as the project may cause huge damage to the coastal resources, and let the Phuket Governor and the Department of Public Works and Town & Country Planning use the budget already allocated for another project,” he added.
Mr Sasin noted that this was not news to the Phuket Provincial Office, which operates as the provincial level of government.
“The DMCR has sent letters to the Phuket Governor before calling for the project to be reviewed,” he said.
Sutha Prathep Na Thalang, of the senior committee DMCR’s Marine and Coastal Management Division in Phuket, explained, “Letters dated Nov 28, 2016 and Jan 13, 2017 were sent to the Phuket Governor.”
The letters were issued from the DMCR headquarters in Bangkok and signed by DMCR Deputy-Director General Sakda Wichiansin.
The letters explained that the DMCR had received many complaints from the committee (of the senior committee DMCR’s Marine and Coastal Management Division in Phuket saying that might affect the marine ecology and environment at Surin Beach and that the project might not even solve the problem of coastal erosion, Mr Sutha told The Phuket News.
“This project might cause more damage than not installing a seawall,” he said.
“The letters also explained that local people lack understanding about the project. They have not been involved enough and do understand what is happening,” he added.
“We need the governor to review the design of the project and look into the environmental impact this project will have,” Mr Sasin said.
“After that has been done, they need to inform local residents of how important this project is and they must involve the public in the decision-making process of what is to happen at the beach.
“The new Phuket Governor might not be aware that the DMCR sent these letters, so I will suggest that we send the letters to him again to make sure he fully understands the situation,” Mr Sasin concluded.