Wastewater project to be reviewed

The Nation 25 November 2000

Agence France-Presse

MANILA – An independent team of experts will review the US$750 million (Bt32.7-billion) Samut Prakarn wastewater management project following concerns raised by residents and environmental groups, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) said yesterday.

The Phillippines-based lender did not say if the review would affect the schedule for the project, originally set for completion in December 2003.

The bank has approved loans worth $230 million in project financing.

An ADB statement said the bank would “commission an independent review by experts of international repute to assess” the project.

The time frame, terms of reference and composition of the review term would be developed after consultation with civil society and stakeholders, it said.

The bank reiterated that it “believes that the Thai government’s approach to the wastewater management problem in Samut Prakarn is technically sound and will help to improve the environment”.

However, “appreciating the importance of consultation on issues of concern to affected communities. ADB and the government of Thailand will continue the process of active dialogue with all stakeholders”.

Under the controversial project, Thailand plans to build wastewater-collection systems, including more than 300 kilometres of interception and collection sewers and associated pumping stations, and a plant capable of treating 525,000 cubic metres of effluent.

The review was sparked by concerns raised by the predominantly fishing and mussel-farming Klong Dan community, which lies about 2km from the planned site of the treatment plant.

It said the fishermen expressed concern about the effect of treated wastewater on fish and mussel-farming as well as the odour from the treatment plant.

The ADB said last week it contacted the environmental group Greenpeace after the latter challenged the effectiveness of the project.

The bank has “requested details of their analysis in order to understand ans address their concerns”.

The bank said a buffer zone would have to be built around the outfall while some fishing licences “may need to be revoked within the buffer zone”.

It said the Thai government would compensate the fishermen while project managers were to adapt measures to control the odour “if it exceeds acceptable limits”.

Samut Prakarn, one of five provinces that make up the Bangkok metropolitan region, was declared a pollution-control area in 1994 because of the large wastewater flows generated by its 1.2 million residents and 4,000 factories.

The wastewater flows through open canals and rivers to the sea, which the ADB said poses health hazards and pollutes large stretches of coastal areas in the Gulf of Thailand.

Some non-government organisations met with ADB officials during the bank’s annual meeting in Chiang Mai in May to express concerns about the project, the bank said.