Locals fear water conflict as new industrial boom arrives along Thailand’s eastern seaboard

  • 6 months   ago
Locals fear water conflict as new industrial boom arrives along Thailand’s eastern seaboard
BANGKOK: As Thailand embarks on an ambitious industrialisation drive along its eastern seaboard, local communities and conservationists fear a brewing war over water.
The Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) Development Plan is a long-term public project aiming to accelerate development in eastern Thailand, namely three provinces - Rayong, Chonburi and Chachoengsao. 
It is attracting global investors in priority sectors to power a national strategy - Thailand 4.0. The types of industries being targeted include next-generation automotive, biotechnologies, AI, robotics, automation and aerospace from countries like Japan, Singapore and China.
“Thailand has identified key projects and key elements that will take Thailand forward and get Thailand out of the middle income trap. To do that, Thailand knows that what we need is technology,” said Luxmon Attapich, the deputy secretary-general of investment and international affairs at EEC.
At the same time, the development plan is raising community worries and stirring conflict. Central to those concerns is the availability of water. 
The landscape in the EEC area is shifting fast already. From farms to factories, what has long been agricultural land is transitioning to accommodate new industry. Huge swathes of land - 48,000 ha in total - have been re-zoned to allow such changes to occur. 
Local communities and small-scale farmers fear the changes they are viewing with their own eyes. New, ever-widening roads plunging through the heart of their provinces, factories replacing fields and the movement of masses of water into reservoirs that are not for them.
The realities of climate change are hanging over this region; devastating droughts in recent years took a heavy toll on eastern Thailand’s water resources and plunged local farmers into desperation. Flooding is a regular threat too and saltwater intrusion into rivers and along the coastline is worsening. 
As a result, the allocation of precious water resources, which must be shared among various stakeholders including new and existing industry, large and small agriculture, and cities and villages has become a flashpoint.
Source: CNA