Friday, December 06, 2019

Environment minister calls for fresh mindset to tackle new challenges in conservation work

Apr 30. 2019
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By The Nation

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Natural Resources and Environment Minister General Surasak Kanjanarat on Tuesday urged the National Parks Department (DNP) to embrace a fresh way of thinking as well as new technology to handle new challenges in conservation work, amid speculation that he would soon leave office following changes in the national administration.

It is still uncertain what shape the new government would take, while the military-backed Phalang Pracharat Party continues to vie to form the next administration despite placing second behind Pheu Thai in terms of the number elected MPs at the general election on March 24.

However, speculation has arisen that if even Phalang Prachart manages to form the new government, Surasak – who is close to Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha – will not be back to oversee the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry.

This is because the party’s executives and its potential coalition partners would themselves want to take the ministerial post, which usually rated as among the ‘Grade A’ Cabinet positions.

The ministry this week is holding a series of public seminars presenting notable work from some of the departments that Surasak has been closely supervising, including the NDP.

Officials said the minister wished the public to learn that during the past three years he had been in the office, there had been major changes and contributions, and that the work should be pursued.

The department decided to pick at least seven successful work stories plus one recent successful Asean meeting concerning action against wildlife trafficking for presentation and brainstorm sessions at today’s seminar, where the minister urged officials to keep up with the new challenges in conservation work, including finding the balance between conservation and development for the utmost benefits of the country.

The success stories included the department’s move to reach the national strategy goal of increasing protected forest areas by 25 per cent of the country’s area, or 80 million rai (12.8 million hectares). This is being done through designation of new national parks and wildlife sanctuaries, or the expansion of those areas. 

There is also the amendment of aged national parks and wildlife protection laws to address long-time conflict between the department and forest dwellers, plus the success of Smart Patrol, which has also been introduced to other Asean countries, so-called national parks 4.0 and remanagement of parks’ income.

But to keep up with the new challenges, the minister stressed, the department needed a fresh mindset and a new way of thinking, plus new technology.

Surasak tried to downplay concerns that a new minister would shift the course of conservation work that he had paved, saying that any government should come into power with conservation very much in mind. 

More important is the department’s determination to pursue its work and move it forward, he added.

At the seminar, the minister repeatedly referred to the possibility of his departure, giving weight to the gathering speculation about his future.

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