Reforestation is underway to return to its former state the sacred mountainous forest area of Doi Suthep in Chiang Mai province after weeks of headlines over a controversial housing project being built for judges and court staff.
The area is being planted by carefully selected tree species, along with erosion-preventing Vetive grass, and two check-dams are being built to prevent debris and toxins pouring into the natural water sources consumed by locals.
Officials, local citizen activists who opposed the housing construction, and soldiers from the 33rd Military Circle were taken on Sunday morning to tour the area being reforested, led by Thanya Netithammakun, chief of the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP).
Thanya said the DNP was ready to merge the area back into Doi Suthep-Pui National Park once it is officially given the order.
Doi Suthep Forestland Reclamation Network coordinator Teerasak Rupsuwan said his group was waiting for a committee to be established this week to set up and oversee a management plan for the forested area at the foot of the sacred Doi Suthep.
Plai-auw Thongsawat from Chiang Mai’s Green City Council said a panel had joined with the DNP to begin rehabilitation work now, a period when the judges’ houses are not yet dismantled. Tree seedlings need to be nurtured for the first phase restoring 20 rai (3.2 hectares), with the area greened over then next 3-8 years. About 74 rai have been handed back so far from the housing project and are in need of reforestation.
After the structures were demolished, the reforestation could begin in full force, she said.
The activity also included a flight of 15 paramotors circling the controversial project while waiving green flags and signs saying “dismantle”.
The controversy that brought out locals in persistent protest was resolved early this month when the government agreed to return a large chunk of the housing project, so that it could eventually be returned to the original overseer, the Doi Suthep-Pui National Park.
The housing project of 45 houses and nine condominiums were being built for the Administrative Office of Appeal Region 5.
The demarcation line will be drawn to clearly separate the returned part from the area that the court will be allowed to use, comprising two office buildings and four flats.
The entire 147-rai area used to be part of the park before it was declared degraded forest and used by the Royal Thai Army. That body later handed it over to the Treasury Department, which allowed the court to use it for the housing project.