Land-rights dispute delays Chao Phraya study

Members of community say they have deeds to land earmarked for promenade as opponents to plane threaten court action.

WITH LESS than one month until deadline, model schemes for the first 12 kilometres of the Chao Phraya for All riverside promenade project have yet to be finalised due to a land-rights identification problem at Wat Dhevaraj Kunchon Community, the study team said yesterday.

Meanwhile, the study was attacked by an opposition group for lacking essential information and failing to list alternative choices for the development. They warned that they may file a complaint to the Administrative Court if the project is pushed forward without proper public consultation.

Although debate was at times heated, the third public hearing on the Chao Phraya project at the Royal Thai Navy Convention Hall by King Mongkut’s Institute of Technology Lat Krabang (KMITL) study team ended peacefully.

This was the last step before the KMITL study team will have to conclude their work and submit it to Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) by the end of September.

Project spokeswoman Antika Sawadsri admitted that the overall plans for the promenade were still incomplete, but insisted that the study would be ready by the deadline.

"We still have a problem on the plan at Wat Dhevaraj Kunchon Community as we found out that some part of the community was claimed to be privately owned, although the authorities indicated that it was public land. The promenade plan for this area has been put on hold for more clarification," Antika said.

Wat Dhevaraj Kunchon Community member Sorathep Rojpotjanaruch said he heard that the BMA planned to remove all houses on public land in front of Wat Dhevaraj Kunchon Temple to make way for the promenade project.

"There are 33 houses, including my home, that the authorities claim to be public land, but we insist that these houses have land deeds and are not on the public land," Sorathep said.

He said that his community had 70 households, with 33 of them situated beyond the flood prevention wall in front of Wat Dhevaraj Kunchon Temple. With the BMA claiming that the land beyond the wall was public, he feared that his community would be forced to relocate, as happened with the Mahakan Fort Community.

Taiwut Khankaew, the BMA Building Control Division director, said there would be verification of the land deeds in Wat Dhevaraj Kunchon Community, and if these proved to be valid, there would be no land reclamation.

After listening to the progress report on the seven-month study, River Assembly representative Yossapon Boonsom said the study was illegitimate because the KMITL team did not really listen to the people's voices and just carried on regardless with the promenade plan.

"There are a lot of concerns about the promenade plan but the study team chose not to really consider other options. This shows that the team had an agenda in the first place to build the promenade project no matter what," Yossapon said.

"In addition, the Environmental Impact Assessment was poorly done and did not include the long-term consequences of a large structure in the river. This is very serious because once the river is destroyed, it cannot be restored to its original condition."

He warned that if the authorities pushed forward with the project without listening to the other voices, the opposition would have no choice but sue them in the Administrative Court.

Many people who attended yesterday's public hearing were in favour of the project.

Wat Tepakorn community leader Suwatchai Somnet said the community previously objected to the promenade project because it might harm the river. But many residents changed their minds when KMITL conducted several public hearings there and allowed the people put forward suggestions and amend the plan.

Some communities and public organisations chose not to attend the event in protest, including Ban Pun, Bang O, Ban Phan Thom, Wat Sam Phraya, Wat Sangwet, and Tha Wang Community.

Source URL: The Nation