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Dept bids to avoid UN 'danger' listing for forests

TO PREVENT the Dong Phayayen-Khao Yai Forest Complex receiving a World Heritage Sites in Danger listing, Thailand needs to get more than 10 votes of support from the World Heritage Committee when it meets in Doha, Qatar, in June.

In a bid to enhance its chances of warding off the listing, the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP) will set up a special committee to oversee the forest complex.

The DNP will today submit a full report explaining its operations to protect this World Heritage site from threats such as dam constructions, road extensions, and illegal logging.

Songtam Suksawang, who heads the National Parks and Protected Areas Innovation Institute, said Thailand needed the support of more than half of the 21-member World Heritage Committee to avoid the unwanted listing.

Unesco's World Heritage Centre recently sent an official letter to Thai authorities, informing them that it would list the forest complex - a World Heritage site since 2005 - as an area in danger unless a number of concerns could be clarified.

In the letter, the centre asked for clarifications on four matters: whether an environmental impact assessment for an extension of a section of Highway 304 has been approved; the impact of construction of the Huay Samong Dam on the critically endangered Siamese crocodiles; the environmental impact of a proposed dam in the west of Ta Phraya National Park; and the situation with illegal logging.

"We need to work hard to explain and convince the World Heritage Committee about what we have done to protect this area in the past several years," Songtam said.

Thailand was once among the 21 members on the World Heritage Committee.

Until 2011, Thailand had excluded itself from being a member.

Songtam said the Huay Samong Dam construction did not pose |any impact on the habitat of Siamese crocodiles in Pang Si Da National Park, while the DNP didn't |approve the Royal Irrigation Department's plan to build a dam in Ta Phraya National Park, home to dozens of bantengs, a species of wild cattle.

He said the DNP had also deployed hundreds of rangers to prevent illegal logging gangs from cutting down Siamese rosewood in Tap Lan National Park.

For the extension of a section of Highway 304, the EIA report for kilometres 42-57 had been approved, he added.




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