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New satellite map issued by ministry

An official displays a new satellite map that will be used by the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry to help solve land conflicts.

An official displays a new satellite map that will be used by the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry to help solve land conflicts.

Boundaries of national parks, forest reserves set out for key agencies

The Natural Resources and Environment Ministry yesterday launched a new satellite map that will be used to resolve conflicts on forestland encroachment.

The new 1:4,000-scale map was introduced at a public forum focused on the problem of forest encroachment held by the ministry yesterday at Chulabhorn Research Institute.

The ministry first began making the map in 2009 in order to study areas being encroached on as well as reshape boundaries of forest reserves, national parks and state-owned land.

The ministry spent more than Bt2 billion, taken from the Global Environmental Fund, to have private firm ESRI Thailand study and draw up the map.

For the project, ESRI Thailand collected more than 187,699 satellite images, taken between 1952 and 2000 by several state agencies, to study the extent of encroachment on forest land and compare it with forest boundaries announced in 1941.

"This map will be used to prove land ownership in court in order to resolve conflicts. The map will show exactly where people live and if they are encroaching on forests," Sunant Arunnoppharat, director of the Environmental Quality Promotion Department, said. This map would only be available to state agencies such as the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) and National Anti-Corruption Commission

(NACC) to investigate land conflicts.



ENDING CONFUSION

Previously, forest-protection agencies had used different maps to prove land rights for people living in areas

overlapping national parks and forest reserves, which has often caused confusion and created conflicts over the legal process. Now, the new map will become a tool for related agencies to prove land rights and end prolonged problems.

Chanvuth Or-udomyuth, from ESRI Thailand, said the company had learned of more than 7,000 cases nationwide in which local residents were found to be living on land overlapping state-owned areas.

The amount of land marked off as forest reserves in Thailand has dropped drastically from 171 million

rai in 1961 to 104 million rai in 2004 due to massive encroachment by farmers and acquisition via illegal

ownership papers.

The government issued a Cabinet resolution on June 30, 2008, allowing people living on areas that overlapped forest reserves or national parks, and those who were waiting to prove their ownership, to continue living in the area provided they did not extend further. However, forest-related agencies do not have records about the boundaries of reserve land under the 2008 Cabinet resolution.

An environment-protection official, who wished to remain anonymous, suggested that the ministry add information about reserve land boundaries in relation to the 2008 Cabinet resolution to this new map so officials know whether people are encroaching further. "This way we can arrest people who are encroaching on forests. At present we have no information to show that they have extended beyond permitted areas," he said.


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