The Samut Prakarn Wastewater Management Project

The Samut Prakarn Wastewater Management Project is located in Klong Dan subdistrict, Samut Prakarn province. [MAP]  Initiated in the early 1990s by the Government of Thailand, the project aims to improve environmental sanitation, water quality, and pollution control in Samut Prakarn’s industrial zone.

The planned project was originally conisisted of two treatment plants in the industrial zone, but the plant design and location were subsequently changed to Klong Dan, 20 kilometre from the initial site, where over 60,000 local villagers rely on the coastal fishing as a main source of livelihoods.

The US$755 million project (29,445 million baht – as in June 2000) is funded by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) – US$230 million, the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) – a fixed amount of 1,750 million baht equivalent through its sector loan to support the Thailand Environment Fund, and the Thai Government funds the rest.

The changes in specifications and project design have resulted in inflating the cost to be double price of its original. Local communities have alleged the irrgularities in several areas including the purchasing of land in Klong Dan at abnormally high price, and several state official as well as politicians have been claimed to be involved.

The project, since its inception, has been surrounded by controversy over corruption, mismanagement of the ADB loan funds, violations of ADB’s policies, flawed project design, lack of local people’s participation in decision-making, and concerns over the project’s planned release of wastewater containing industrial, heavy metals and toxic waste into the coastal ecosystem of Samut Prakarn province of the Gulf of Thailand.

In 2001, the affected communities filed an inspection request to the ADB and this became the first inspection that the ADB ever undertaken. The report reveals that the Bank had violated its own policies during project preparation and implementation, including Supplementary Financing of Cost Overruns, Bank Operational Missions, Environmental Considerations in Bank Operations, Involuntary Resettlement, Incorportion of Social Dimensions in Bank Operations, and Governance. Moreover, the Inspection Committee also states that the rights and interests of local people have suffered direct and material harm as a result of the ADB’s non-compliance with its operational policies and procedures. However, the ADB has been condemned by the local people as the Bank failed to take adequate responsibility and action.

The project, about 97% complete, was ordered to stop in February 2003 after years of strong local opposition and reports of irregularities in land acquisition and construction contracts. Although its future as a wastewater treatment plan is still very much in doubt, the local people have proposed the alternative as to turn the site to be a marine research centre, and urged the government to build small plants rather than one massive plant that cannot serve local communities.

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