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Long fight to prevent Route 304 expansion ends in loss

Route 304 - which cuts through two World Heritage national parks in Nakhon Ratchasima and Prachin Buri provinces - will be expanded under the supervision of the junta, the Office of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy and Planning (ONEP) said yesterday.

Expanding the road from two to four lanes will be done through tunnels at two locations inside the Khao Yai and Thaplan natonal parks, between kilometre markers 26 and 29 and 45 and 57 respectively, so wildlife will no longer be affected or killed by traffic, said ONEP secretary-general Kasemsan Jinnawaso.

Department of Highways director-general Chatchawal Buncharoenkij said the approval was good news as the ruling National Council for Peace and Order realised the project's importance for the welfare of wildlife.

The department has sought a Bt2.9-billion budget for the project and is ready to begin construction immediately, he said.

The Highways Department and wildlife agencies have been in dispute during the past three years over the proposed expansion, with the latter raising concerns over the welfare of wildlife and the former raising concerns over the frequency of accidents and human fatalities stemming from vehicles hitting animals.

A senior NCPO official yesterday visited the ONEP and approved the expansion, with the tunnels at two locations incorporated.


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