Sanctuary water plan spurs environmental concerns

Sanctuary water plan spurs environmental concerns

Experts argue local ecosystem will suffer

Sanctuary water plan spurs environmental concerns
An aerial shot shows smoke from a wildfire in Salak Phra Wildlife Sanctuary on Feb 6. The forest area will be further affected if a water tunnel is built through the mountain.

Officials from The Royal Irrigation Department (RID) and the Office of the National Water Resources (ONWR) on Tuesday will visit the site of a new water tunnel network set to be built in Kanchanaburi’s Salak Phra Wildlife Sanctuary which has drawn local flak.

The tunnels are supposed to deal cope with summer droughts but have raised concerns by conservationists that they will affect the local ecosystem.

The RID claims the project will stem drought and water shortages in the eastern part of Kanchanaburi province, covering the districts of Bo Phloi, Huay Krachao, Lao Khwan, Nong Prue and Phanom Thuan.

The project’s impact on the environment has been assessed, said an RID source.

He said construction will last five years from 2027 to 2032, under a budget of 11,758.80 million baht.

The 20.5-kilometre tunnel will divert water from Srinakarind Dam on the western side of the province to the Lam Iee Su reservoir, where the water will be further distributed to the districts.

The tunnel is expected to carry about 2.97 million cubic metres per year which will benefit 486,098 rai of agricultural land, he said.

However, conservationists and environmental activists say they are concerned about the impact it may have on the local ecosystem and wildlife.

One source from the Salak Phra Wildlife Sanctuary said although the water division project suggested seven possible routes, all would affect the forest, especially the first and fifth routes which will go through a Class A watershed, an ecologically sensitive area in which environmental law forbids construction activity.

The two routes will also cut through the Thung Salak Phra lowland and Thung Na Mon highland, which are home to a range of plants and wild animals, water sources as well as over 100 of the sanctuary’s mineral licks.

“These areas are classified as nature reserve zones. They are rich in plantlife and forests that provide a habitat for wild animals and create river sources. These areas are not allowed to be exploited and must be left in their original natural states,” the source said.

The Seub Nakhasathien Foundation on Saturday expressed opposition to the tunnel, saying there are better options to cope with drought in Kanchanaburi. Ecosystems in the sanctuary should be spared, it said.