By PRATCH RUJIVANAROM
Thailand’s National Committee on the Convention for the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage yesterday met to discuss the topic of Unesco’s concerns about the impact of development projects’ on the environment, concluding that the UN body’s concerns could be addressed. The meeting took place at the Office of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy and Planning.
Deputy Prime Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan, who is chairman of the committee, said after the meeting that the main discussion was the consideration of the status of the world heritage site in light of the many development projects in the area.
“The main issues raised by Unesco were about the highway expansion and irrigation projects in the world heritage site area. However, the relevant agencies can respond to all concerns and we will submit a report on these issues to the World Heritage Centre next month,” Prawit said.
“The status of Dong Phayayen-Khao Yai Forest Complex will be discussed again in the committee’s 41st convention this year.”
The projects addressed by Unesco were the expansion of national highways No 304 and 348 and the Huai Samong and Huai Satone dams.
A representative from the Highways Department said the expansion of National Highway No 304 from Pak Kret to Nakorn Ratchasima was underway and the department was trying to reduce impacts on the ecosystem by building wildlife corridors where the highway cuts through the forest.
The wildlife corridor for Highway No 304 was 31 per cent complete, the committee heard. The passages are intended to allow large animals to pass under bridges or over tunnels, while smaller animals would also be able to use tunnels under the road.
However, the delegate from the Highways Department said the department only had plans to enlarge Highway No 348 from Aranyaprathet to Nangrong, improve road safety and reduce traffic congestion, while the project was currently being studied.
A representative from the Royal Irrigation Department (RID) said Huai Samong Dam in Prachin Buri was nearly complete and already storing water, but the RID would return the reservoir area to Khao Yai National Park, which could use it as a Siamese crocodile sanctuary to preserve the rare species in the wild.
Plans for Huai Satone Dam in Sa Kaeo had already been dropped, the RID official said.
At the World Heritage Committee convention in Doha in 2014, Unesco warned Thai authorities that Dong Phayayen-Khao Yai Forest Complex’s world heritage status could be downgraded because of increasing threats to the forest.