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Gulf gives and it takes away: cause of erosion, sediment

THE SOUTHERN coastline erosion - particularly in Narathiwat, Pattani, Songkhla and Nakhon Si Thammarat - has become severe and is leading to new issues, including a dispute over alluvion land - an area built up by sediment.

In Songkhla's Thepha district, this build up was triggered by construction of a breakwater at the mouth of the Pak Bang River in tambon Sakom . As one side lost homes and land in the severe erosion, the other benefited in the form of a new 300-rai area of alluvion land.

Some people sold parts of this new land to investors at Bt200,000-Bt300,000 per rai. The alluvion formation is growing at 25-30 metres a year.

The Office of the Public Sector Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) Region 9 chief Pol Lt Col Samart Chainarong said he had received calls for a probe into rights over the 300-rai alluvion after 50 villagers and investors reportedly encroached on it.

The villagers had been in the area for 10 years so the law reinforcement was difficult, he said. PACC is now setting out to determine who has rights over alluvion, a procedure which would require co-operation from related agencies and involved many laws.

On May 1, Thepha district chief Preecha Damkerngkiat issued an announcement declaring the alluvion land as state property. The district office stated that the breakwater, built by the Marine Department to solve Sakom waterway shallowing, led to the current shift and the alluvion. As a result it was state property for public members to use together.

The announcement said anyone wanting to object to this claim should do so to the district chief in 45 days.

Ban Pak Bang Moo 1 village headman Prasert Sahimsa hailed the announcement as the most progressive since all sides called for the public sector to handle this alluvion issue. He said it couldn't be solved by local administrative bodies and, if prolonged, could cause disunity among the community.

Urging that the law must be clear, he said the announcement got mix responses; some villagers understood and were ready to claim their rights, while others resisted it. Poor villagers who had encroached on the alluvion could be talked into leaving it. But people who held land title deeds near the alluvion, claimed ownership and some had already sold the alluvion land to others, he said. This led to disputes and needed legal procedures to prove rights over the alluvion, he added.

Tambon Sakom resident Somporn Baidukem claimed the alluvion land near his property should be his because his land title deed stated his property was located next to the Gulf of Thailand. Citing a previous court battle with a tenant who failed to pay rent and claimed the land was public property, he said the court ordered the tenant to move out, as according to the rent contract. He saw this as confirmation the alluvion belonged to the nearby land title deed holder, he added.

However, people living only 500 metres away and who had lost their homes and lands due to the breakwater construction needed

help. Worapong Isarangkul na Ayutthaya said the waves claimed areas about the size of two football fields and one house on his property, and were about to claim another home. "My homefront beach has become a 4-metre-deep cliff," he said.

Fisherman Dolroman Tohkawi said the beach where he and fellow fishermen anchored boats has became a cliff with strong currents, leaving it unsuitable for docking. The villagers sued the Marine Department and subsequently got partial assistance money of Bt100,000.

"The cash cannot recompense for adversity and change in the balance of nature, but at least the public knows the impact of man-made instruments in controlling nature," he added.

Prof Somboon Pornpinetpong, an academic in oceanography at Prince of Songkla University, said the lower Gulf of Thailand had been eroded for a 300km-long stretch of the 600km coastline. People normally would expect a breakwater construction to cause one side to gain alluvion while the other suffered erosion, Somboon explained. All sides in the issue had to agree and prepare remedial measures. A major problem of the gulf coastline was the public sector didn't understand the measures needed to combat the problems or be prepared for their subsequent difficulties.

To mitigate the problem, they could apply a "beach nourishment and sand bypassing" method, pouring alluvion soil on to the eroded area. This should be done continuously, Somboon said, meaning nobody could claim rights over the alluvion land.

Commander Sathit Chinnaworn, director of the Marine Office Region 4 in Songkhla, said the breakwater would create changes to the coastline. Since all agreed to its being built for commercial usage, they should accept the subsequent impact, he said, and solutions would be prioritised. "The department set tambon Sakom to be a model in solving the breakwater-triggered issues but we have a problem of insufficient budget so the procedure was delayed," he added.

As the rights over alluvion land and remedial measures will take time to complete, it remains for all to see how this issue can be tackled.


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