Locals demand better action against salt and shrimp farmers
Locals in Nakhon Ratchasima are demanding that the provincial governor set up a new panel to provide assistance to farmers whose land has been ruined by nearby shrimp farms and salt fields.
The residents say the panel established by Governor Winai Buapradit two weeks ago was not acceptable.
"That committee only focuses on impacts from shrimp farms," Thavorn Phetkhunthod, leader of a network of affected farmers, said yesterday.
According to him, salt in soil has ruined 10,006 rai of farmland in Nakhon Ratchasiman's Non Thai, Sung Noen and Phra Thongkham districts over the past decade. His network is getting ready to file a Bt280-million compensation lawsuit if Winai fails to deliver a satisfactory solution.
Some operators have also turned their salt fields into shrimp farms in response to actions from relevant authorities, including a man who was ordered by the Court of Appeals to pay Bt1 million in compensation to an elderly woman earlier this week.
Thavorn said yesterday that a team of geologists from the Nakhon Ratchasima Rajabhat University (NRRU) had been assigned to conduct a study on the impacts from the salt fields.
"It will submit a report in two weeks," he said.
NRRU lecturer Sarochinee Kaeothanee said the study had detected very salty soil in some areas of the three districts, but added that it was unclear if the problem stemmed from the shrimp farms.
"We do not have the tools for chemical analysis, so we have suggested that local people contact experts to gather more information," the lecturer said.
Nakhon Ratchasima Industry Office's chief Weerayos Uttaranakhon, meanwhile, insisted that all salt fields in the province were now complying with the law, including the stipulation that they can only operate from March to October.
"We conduct regular checks," he said, adding that some shrimp and salt farmers had done much more than what was required by law. For instance, he said, they had made sure that the salt fields were separated by a ridge that was more than 1.5 metres wide to ensure the saltwater does not leak to nearby farmland.
"The laws only require a 1.5m-wide ridge, but most owners have built wider ones," he said.
According to him, there are 23 salt fields and two shrimp farms in the province, adding the shrimp farms fell under the jurisdictions of the Nakhon Ratchasima Fisheries Office.
"We will be talking to representatives of the affected people soon in a bid to create a better understanding," Weerayos said.
Wiroj Changsuan from the Lawyers Council of Thailand disclosed that he was now working on two civil cases relating to the impacts from salt fields/shrimp farms.
"We have lodged complaints with the Bangkok Civil Court. Trials will start in June," he said.
Nakhon Ratchasima, Udon Thani, Maha Sarakham, Sakon Nakhon and Nong Khai produce 180 billion tonnes of salt for the country each year. Salt from seawater only accounts for 200,000 tonnes annually.