By Janjira Pongrai
Under this plan, the department’s directorgeneral Boonchob Suthamanuswong said his agency would allocate about 450,000 rai of mangrove forest reserve areas to people currently living illegally and encroaching on mangrove forest areas in 23 coastal provinces.
Thailand has only 1.5 million rai of mangrove forest. The department estimated that about 30 per cent of mangrove forests in all coastal areas were encroached upon by local people with illegally issued landownership deeds.
Most encroachedupon mangrove land – especially in the Andaman Sea provinces of Phuket and Krabi – is occupied by wealthy people. Some mangrove lands were abandoned shrimp farms eroded by the sea.
“The department expects that this plan to issue land ownership deeds to those people who illegally utilise and live in the mangrove forest will stop them encroaching on these areas,” Boonchob said.
The department will conduct a survey to designate the boundaries of mangrove areas nationwide by using satellite images from the GeoInformatics and Space Technology Development Agency.
The department will also invite local people living on the encroached mangrove land to help the department draw up the mangrove forest borders before issuing the land title deeds to them.
However, Boonchob said the department also planned to restore degraded mangrove forest through massive planting. The department expected to increase the size of mangrove forests by up to 4,000 rai per year.
Additionally, he said the department would ask the owners of abandoned shrimp farms to grow mangrove trees on their farms. The department will give Bt3,930 per rai to the owners as financial support for recovering degraded mangrove forest.
Some 100,000 shrimp farms along country’s coastal areas have been abandoned by their owners. Nakhon Si Thammarat has the highest number, with abandoned shrimp ponds covering about 20,000 to 30,000 rai.
Boonchob said he will start the plan to recover degraded mangrove forests at Chantaburi, Trat, Samut Songkhram, and Surat Thani, as theses provinces are now ready to implement the plan.
Woraphon Duanglomchan, a coordinator of the Conservation Network of the Gulf of Thailand, said he strongly disagreed with the Marine and Coastal Resources Department's plan to issue land ownership documents to people who have encroached on the mangrove forest.
Instead of encouraging people to recover and protect mangrove areas, he said the plan will encourage people to sell their land to wealthy persons after they receive the land ownership documents.
He said his network has drafted a mangrove land management bill that would allow people to utilise the mangrove areas, but they need to preserve the mangrove forest and its ecosystem at the same time. If people damage the mangrove areas, they will be asked to move out and will no longer to be allowed to utilise the areas.
The network proposed the draft bill to Natural Resources and Environment Minister Preecha Rengsomboonsuk during his visiting trip to Samut Sakhon province’s Kok Kham mangrove forest two months ago.
“Preecha promised to submit this draft bill to the Cabinet, but so far there has been no progress and no news from him,” Woraphon said.
However, he said his network would work on its own to recover degraded mangrove areas without assistance from state agencies. Over 1,000 rai of degraded mangrove areas in Samut Sakhon province have now been recovered.