Opponents to petition King

Bangkok Post 13 September 2000

By Ploenpote Atthakor in Samut Prakan

Klong Dan villagers disagree with site

Villagers opposed to the controversial Klong Dan waste water treatment project will petition His Majesty the King to have it stopped, protest leader Chalao Thimthong said yesterday.

Thousands of villagers from tambon Klong Dan in Samut Prakan, and tambon Song Klong in Chachoengsao will sign the petition, which will be submitted later this month, he said.

The villagers cited corruption, irregularities and lack of transparency as reasons to scrap the project.

He said the petition was the villagers' last resort as they already tried every peaceful way to stop the 23-billion-baht project, which they believe will cause ecological imbalance and damage their self-sufficient way of life.

Despite their protest, construction is well under way and expected to be completed by 2002.

"I would like to make it clear that we are not opposed to waste water treatment projects per se. As a large industrial province, we totally agree Samut Prakan needs treatment facilities. We don't agree, however, with the project's location," he told a group of deputy governors who visited the area.

"Treatment facilities should be located in industrial areas, the source of pollution, and not in green areas like tambon Klong Dan. Polluters should be made responsible for their own problems," he said.

The huge volume of treated water released into the sea will affect those who earn their living through coastal fisheries, Mr Chalao said.

The villagers also said the Pollution Control Department's plan to reuse the treated water was a waste of taxpayers' money.

Department chief Sirithan Pairojboriboon said his agency bowed to local pressure and decided to discharge water only during the rainy season, when coastal fishermen refrained from farming activities.

"We will have another unit of treatment added to the project to improve the water quality, making it appropriate for reuse," he said.

Yuwaree Inna, director of water quality management, said the water would be suitable for agriculture. "We will pump it into the nearby irrigation canal. Those wishing to use it can do so free of charge," she said.

The additional treatment unit will cost some 500-600 million baht more, Ms Yuwaree said. Thongchai Pannasawad, lecturer of ChulalongkornUniversity's Engineering Faculty, was sceptical about the practicality of reusable water plan, especially in light of the increasing costs of additional pipes and electricity.

He said pumping water into the nearby irrigation canal will not solve the problem since the discharge will still flow into the sea.

The treated discharge would be more useful if it was siphoned off into remote areas, he said.