Development projects being pushed under Section 44 of the interim charter will not be allowed to go ahead without meeting strict environmental standards, the government has pledged. Gen Surasak made the comments on Friday after environmentalists warned the use of Section 44 gives the government free reign to avoid assessments as it tries to accelerate development work, The Bankok Post reports
Srisuwan Janya, president of the Stop Global Warming Association, vowed to take legal action against any government agency that tries to circumvent assessments, saying the checks are essential for protecting the health of people and the environment. “We will follow all legal requirements for EIA and EHIA studies on megaprojects, despite our efforts to speed up the projects,” Gen Surasak said.
He said the ministry has no plans to use a code of practice to get out of doing the assessments. The Office of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy and Planning previously allowed a waste- energy plant to be constructed using a code of practice instead of an environmental impact assessment.
The code of practice shortened the timeframe for studying the potential impact of the scheme. “A code of practice can be used on a case-by-case basis, but is not suitable for all mega-projects. That’s why all our development schemes will follow legal procedures Gen Surasak said.
Ministers have said they will use special powers under Section 44 to tackle the slow progress on planned infrastructure development projects, including the dual-track railway scheme. Onep has already given the go-ahead for three of six routes but environmental studies are pending on the Lop Buri-Pak Nam Pho, Map Ka Bao-Chumthang Jira and Nakhon Pathom-Hua Hin parts of the line. Detcharat Sukkamnerd, an economics lecturer at Kasetsart University, said EIA delays tend to be caused by the firms conducting them rather than the process. He said EIAs are vital because mega-projects have a major impact on communities, adding local people must be involved in decision-making.