Map Ta Phut progress

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Temporary screening body to start soon

The government offered assurances yesterday that the suspended industrial projects at Map Ta Phut would be able to proceed by October.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva also expressed confidence that a temporary independent organisation to screen the projects would be ready to start work this month.

Section 67 of the 2007 Constitution requires an independent to screen new industrial projects classified as potentially harmful to the environment and public health. Projects on the so-called harmful list must conduct environmental impact and heath impact assessments (EIA and HIA) and hold public hearings.

The premier made remark after the Stop Global Warming Association petitioned the Administrative Court to block the establishment of the temporary screening body, saying it was unconstitutional.

The non-governmental organisation said the temporary committee did not comply with Section 67 (2) because it would be established by using the authority of the Office of the Prime Minister. However, the court dismissed the petition.

The group was among those that successfully petitioned the Administrative Court to suspend 76 industrial ventures last September.

Mr Abhisit yesterday discussed progress on the Map Ta Phut legal impasse with officials of the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry, and the National Economic and Social Development Board (NESDB).

"Over the past months, the government has put the highest efforts into solving the problems and so far we are trying to tackle the key point, the independent body, because if we cannot establish it we cannot get investment to proceed," said Korbsak Sabhavasu, the secretary-general to the prime minister.

The temporary organisation would operate for two years or until a permanent independent organisation is set up.

Mr Korbsak said the list of harmful industries that will require EIA and HIA reports was also likely to be finalised next month. Industrialists have complained that some of those listed should be removed because they do not harm the environment of public health.

The Administrative Court last year ordered the suspension of 76 industrial projects, many belonging to large industrial companies such as the PTT Group and Siam Cement Group, because of the failure of state agencies to comply with Section 67.

Subsequent court appeals by the owners of some of the project owners have brought the number of suspended projects down to 46, including some projects that have been halted voluntarily by the decision of the companies.

Nine out of 46 projects have received court approval to complete construction. However, they would need to petition again for approval to begin operations after the construction complete.

Another 11 projects are seen as not being subject to the court orders as their EIAs were approved before the 2007 Constitution took effect. Therefore, the government and the Industrial Estate Authority of Thailand allowed them to go ahead without seeking court permission.

The remaining 26 projects are still seeking ways to present evidence to support their petitions to continue.


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