10/05/2012, 00.00
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Map Ta Phut, industry and environment: challenge of sustainable development

by Weena Kovidhavanij
Networks to change the East seeks to protect local economies and populations from indiscriminate growth. Goal of problem sharing and solutions for real heritage conservation. Three phases: recovery, protection and conservation.

Bangkok (AsiaNews) - The need to balance industrial development and economic growth with the need to preserve the environment and protect the scenic beauty also - and especially - for future generations is becoming increasingly urgent in Thailand. Among the most serious and emblematic cases is Map Ta Phut, which overlooks the Gulf, home to the largest industrial park specializing in the petrochemical industry for the whole country. Initiatives linking experts, activists and ordinary citizens are being born, eager to promote sustainable development projects, with particular attention to areas in which they mega-installations arise causing enormous environmental devastation.

Networks to change the East is part of these initiatives to protect the environment, promoted by the researcher Somneuk Chongbuasin and representatives from eight provinces in the eastern part of the country. The objective is to protect agribusiness and the local economy - including crops, livestock and fishing tourism - in a growth "sustainable" for the individual communities. Its starting point is the idea of ​​collaboration and sharing, to find the "answers" to the problems "together", safeguarding heritage and its transmission to future generations.

As already mentioned, one of the most emblematic cases of environmental pollution is the industrial center of Map Ta Phut in the district of Mueang Rayong in Rayong province, overlooking the Gulf of Thailand, home to the largest industrial park in the country, the Map Ta Phut Industrial Estate. The rapid and uncontrolled expansion has caused a series of accidents (pictured) and other issues including land and water pollution.

Founded in 1988 in the East Coast Economic Region and managed by a government agency that reports to the Ministry of Industry in 2009 its expansion plan was interrupted- 65 projects with a value of 8 billion dollars - following a Supreme Court decision. The ruling upheld the legality of the year long legal battle - complete with petitions and demonstrations - of local committees and environmental groups. According to a report, in fact, at least two thousand people have died of cancer pollution linked to production systems and employment.

Today the aim, explains Somneuk Chongbuasin, is to slow the indiscriminate development (now in its third phase) of the Laem Chabang project, where there is the most important industrial port of Thailand. The mode of action of Networks to change the East - whose initiatives could soon extend to the southern provinces of Thailand - can be summarized in three stages: environmental recovery of the region through a reclamation and the protection of the area affected by the work; preserving resources for the future and future generations. "We are not anti-growth" state activists, but favorable to the "authentic development" of the community, paying attention to the environment, culture and food resources.


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