Stand-alone EIA body sought in bill

An environmental advocacy group yesterday filed a petition with the Ministry of National Resources and Environment, demanding the agency include their proposals in a draft law designed to protect and preserve the environment.

The People's Network of Sustainable Development has long pressed the state to set up an independent body to conduct environmental impact assessments (EIAs) and environmental and health impact assessments (EHIAs) fairly and transparently.

Prasitchai Nunual, a key coordinator of the group, said local people have been suffering the consequences of harmful industrial projects.

He claimed the EIAs and EHIAs for existing projects had been conducted by expert groups selected by the Office of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy and Planning, skirting public participation.

Mr Prasitchai also claimed a consultancy which had conducted one study had distorted its findings so that a related project could be approved.

The network also asked the ministry to include strategic environmental assessments (SEAs) in the draft. SEAs are aimed at ensuring that environmental and possibly other sustainability issues are considered in policy making.

Another demand was to make EIA/EHIA approval valid for no more than five years. The group also requested nullification of the National Council for Peace and Order's decree that bidding can get under way on some projects, including transportation, irrigation and health, before an EIA/EHIA has been approved.

"I've called on the ministry to put our requests into the draft," he said, adding the process is an important step to protect and preserve the environment.

Mr Prasitchai said if their requests were not included in the draft, the group would be forced to take other action, although he declined to say what that action might be.

Around 20 representatives from the network yesterday gathered at the ministry under supervision of the police. After holding talks with senior ministry officials, Mr Prasitchai and another key leader, ML Rungkhun Kitiyakara, said they were pleased with the outcome.

Last year, the duo managed to persuade the government to suspend the Krabi coal-fired power plant project with a hunger strike.

Sunee Piyapanpong, the ministry's permanent secretary, said officials had accepted all requests put forward by the network, having agreed with many of the group's points. She will collect all requests from the network and other feedback and post it to the ministry website.

Source URL: Bangkok Post