Activist groups upset Chinese firm to get first review of navigation project study
LOCAL ACTIVISTS and academics are angry that Chinese officials and companies working on the Mekong River Navigation Channel Improvement Project will be the decision maker on an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of the project.
The TEAM Group of Companies, a Thai consultancy hired by the Chinese state-owned company, met yesterday with local environmental group Rak Chiang Khong in Chiang Khong district in Chiang Rai to discuss the EIA procedures for the project and assured that there would be proper public participation.
Orawan Siriratpiriya, a representative from the TEAM Group, said the company had signed a contract with China’s CCCC Second Harbor Consultants Co Ltd to help collect material for the EIA report plus conduct a public hearing in Thailand.
Orawan said that the EIA study for the Mekong River project would be done and assessed by the Chinese side first, because they paid for the study.
However, public participation was assured in the study to guarantee that people can express demands and concerns about the project.
“It is normal practice that the sponsor of the [EIA] study will send their team to conduct the study and review the final report,” she said.
“However, the Chinese company has hired us to collect samples from the field, control the research methodology, and conduct the public hearing. So we will do our part based on Thai and international standards.
“The report will also provide the options for Mekong River navigation route improvement alongside with each option’s possible impacts, |methods to prevent these impacts, and recommendations.
“Moreover, local people can comment on the study and raise concerns in the public hearing forum.”
After the company reviews the options the conclusions will be |forwarded to the Thai government for approval.
Rak Chiang Khong chairman Niwat Roykaew voiced concern over the Chinese company being first to review the EIA for the project. He urged that the environmental assessment and consideration must comply with Thai law. He said it was very |likely that the Chinese company would consider the assessment based on |economic concerns, and that it would not include values for ecosystems and people’s livelihoods.
“I totally disagree that the Chinese will determine the result of the [EIA] study. It is wrong and Thailand will be disadvantaged because in the end the Chinese side will control the decision.”
Chainarong Sretthachau, a lecturer at Maha Sarakham University, also said it was wrong that the Chinese company will consider the environmental assessment for a project |situated in Thailand. As this project is on an international river, all countries in the river basin should have a right to get involved in the study and |decision making, he said.
“China as a project owner can support the EIA study but not consider it. This will be a violation of sovereignty over our territory,” Chainarong said.