By Pongphon Sarnsamak
“We are really worried that the construction will create a huge impact on our precious marine resources as we can make money from catching fish – over Bt10,000 a day,” a 44-year-old fisherman, Mu Toh-Intae, said.
“The way of fishermen’s lives would be totally destroyed by the port construction and related development,” he said.
Mu and his fisher friends wake up early every morning to start the engine of a boat and go fishing in Golden Bay off Tha Sa La, on the edge of the Gulf of Thailand.
“There are plenty of fish in Golden Bay,” he said. In fact, they can catch over 200 types of fish and aquatic animals such as Whisker Sheatfish and Silver Sillago, as well as crab, shrimp, and mantis shrimp – in Golden Bay and nearby areas close to the construction site.
“We can make money from selling fish – at least Bt1,000 a day, especially in November. We could make money up to Bt10,000 a day if we get mantis shrimp in Golden Bay,” Mu said.
The port would be 330 metres long, 33 metres wide and located within 500 metres of the shore.
Mu’s friend Muhammad Solibi, 44, said dredging of the seabed to build a way for boats to access the port and vibrations caused by the construction process would create adverse impacts on marine life and the aquatic ecosystem.
Chevron Thailand Exploration and Production has a government concession to explore and recover oil it finds in the Gulf of Thailand. The company has two shore bases, in Songkhla and Chon Buri. But because of limits on these shore base facilities, Chevron wants to build a new base at Ban Bang Sarn, in Tambon Klai, Tha Sala district.
The site is about 20 km from Mu’s home in Ban Nai Thung.
The new base would have two main facilities – a deep-sea port and chemical storage site.
The port and storage site would be managed by NST Supply Base, an affiliate of Chevron Thailand Exploration and Production.
The project, expected to start next year, would take 18 months to complete.
Under Article 67 (2) of the Constitution, the company must conduct an Environmental and Health Impact Assessment (EHIA) as the project is classed as harmful to the environment.
On Sept 11, an Office of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy and Planning (ONEP) panel of experts approved the final EHIA report, which will help the US oil giant go ahead with its drilling and exploration work in the Gulf.
Piyanant Sophonthanaporn, director of ONEP’s Environmental Impact Assessment Bureau, said the expert panel backed the EHIA report because Chevron took extra measures to mitigate impacts after the panel rejected it seven times.
Once Chevron finalises the EHIA report and agrees to the mitigation measures, ONEP will hand it to the Independent Commission on Environment and Health (ICEH) for a recommendation before it goes to the Marine Department for final approval.
Under the Constitution, the ICEH and Marine Department must hold a public hearing before pushing the project through.
Hathairat Atichart, manager of policy and public affairs at Chevron Thailand, insists that the company has complied with the charter in conducting its EHIA and listened to all stakeholders.
But she said the company may review the cost of construction and worthiness of investment for the project.