Erosion prevention project at Songkhla beach project on hold

SONGKHLA – The provincial governor has ordered a controversial erosion project at Samila-Chalatad beach to be suspended following intense opposition from environmentalists and local fishermen. The decision was reached in talks between governor Thamrong Charoenkul and those who oppose the project after a case was put to the Songkhla Administrative Court.

Sor Rattanamanee Polkla, a lawyer for the Community Resource Centre who is involved in the case, said the erosion prevention project would be put on hold until the court delivers a verdict. The hearing has been set by the court for Sept 2. Authorities responsible for the project are at odds with the civic sector over the scheme which started in June to prevent erosion at the most famous beach in the province by constructing concrete groynes and adding more sand to it.

Environmentalists and coastal fishermen are concerned that it will damage the beach area and deplete marine resources. The civic sector, which includes the Songkhla Forum Youth Group, Beach for Life Club, Crescent Moon Lawyers Group and local fishermen, lodged a complaint to the court on Monday to ask for an emergency hearing on alleged unlawful procedure.

The complaint accused the governor and the Provincial Natural Resources and Environment Office of carrying out the construction without the permission of relevant authorities and bypassing the environmental impact assessment.

It also accused the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources, Marine Department under the Transport Ministry and Songkhla Municipality of negligence in their duties as the two agencies had made no attempt to stop the project.

The emergency hearing was granted on Tuesday with both sides ordered to appear before the court. But the court decided to inspect the site on Wednesday first.

Tension between the governor and the civic camp rose ahead of the court’s visit which found workers had been digging up concrete groynes on Tuesday night amid suspicion authorities were trying to destroy evidence.

But Mr Thamrong said on Wednesday the work was intended to show that the structure was not permanent. The governor, who appeared at the project site along with court and other authorities, insisted the project should proceed according to law.

Alisar Bindusa, a representative of the Crescent Moon Lawyer Group, told the Bangkok Post that her members were satisfied with the decision to temporarily shelve the construction project. “At least, the project is suspended,” she said. “We want the project to go through the EIA study properly. The coast could be greatly damaged by the project.”