Saturday, January 05, 2008

Map Ta Phut villagers issue rally threat

Map Ta Phut villagers issue rally threat

Over govt's unsolved pollution problems


Rayong _ Map Ta Phut residents have vowed to hold a mass rally in March to protest the government's persistent failure to tackle industrial pollution in the province. The planned rally is expected to draw some 50,000 protesters, said Suthi Atchasai, coordinator of the Eastern People Network. The demonstrators will converge inside the Map Ta Phut industrial estate and set up a so-called ''Sufficiency Village'' as their headquarters.

''All the government has done is turn a blind eye to the province's pollution problems. The 'old ginger' government of Surayud Chulanont still goes ahead and allows 12 more factories to be built without taking any action against the polluters.

''In the recent IPP (independent power producers) meeting, Energy Minister Piyasvasti Amranand disclosed a coal-fired power plant would be built and operated in Rayong by the Glow Group,'' said Mr Suthi. The ultimate goal of the planned rally is to stiffen opposition against the coal-fired power plants and halt the expansion of the industrial estate.

He lashed out at the government for failing to declare the heavily-polluted Map Ta Phut industrial estate a pollution control zone. The government also ignored local participation when it endorsed the new projects, without considering the negative impact on local communities.

Deputy Prime Minister and Industry Minister Kosit Panpiemras, who is also chairman of the National Environment Board, had pledged to rid the province of toxic emissions under a five-year plan starting this year. However, there appeared to be no progress in launching the plan, said Mr Suthi. A lot of residents living near the industrial zone risk health problems resulting from pollution-induced diseases, especially cancer.

Meanwhile, a factory was found dumping industrial waste in a vacant land plot near the Rayong river.

Rayong pollution control officials rushed to tambon Nong Bua in Ban Khai district following a complaint that industrial waste was being dumped in the area. Officials spotted 10-wheel trucks unloading the waste.

Dusit Chotikavanit, an official from the complaint centre, said the waste belonged to a factory in the Rojana industrial park in Ban Khai district.

The factory legally obtained a permit to produce citric acid by using cassava roots as raw material. Under the permit, the factory must properly dump waste at a designated landfill. However, its management had hired a private firm to dump the waste at an unpermitted site, he said.

Mr Dusit's team yesterday inspected the factory and ordered Suwat Vorasak, manager of Rojana industrial estate, to ask the firm to stop dumping waste in the area.

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