MAP TA PHUT PROJECTS
PTT, Siam Cement get go-ahead
Ministry cites 'very low level' of pollution
PTT and Siam Cement have been given the greenlight by the Industry Ministry to proceed with their planned petrochemical projects in the Map Ta Phut industrial zone, despite growing concerns for local residents' health.
"We have already strictly screened the projects before giving the approval. These two projects have efficient operating systems and emit pollution at a very low level," Deputy Industry Minister Piyabutr Cholvijarn said yesterday.
Other investment projects without environmental impact assessments remain suspended, he said.
No officials at PTT or Siam Cement could be reached to re-veal details of the approved projects.
The move came amid concerns that more projects in the area would increase toxic emissions, while the government has outlined an environmental master plan to control and reduce hazardous substances in the area.
Most of the toxic substances are believed to come from petrochemical plants in Map Ta Phut, Rayong, which is the heart of the Eastern Seaboard.
Several plants have already invested heavily on new equipment to reduce pollution emissions.
Earlier, Industry Minister Kosit Panpiemras said that due to cooperation from existing plants, the toxic levelas in the area should be reduced according to the master plan within a year and that should allow businesses to proceed with those new projects that pass environment impact assessments.
About seven to eight power and petrochemical plants are planned for the area to benefit from the proximity of existing plants.
Despite the companies' desire to stay close together, the government sees the need to find a new location for industrial plants, now that Map Ta Phut is nearly full.
Piyabutr said that out of a total area of 120,000 rai, Map Ta Phut has only 20,000 rai left, and that is sufficient to accommodate only the petrochemical plants in the third development phase.
"We have to speed up the study to find a new location because Map Ta Phut can support expansion projects for just five more years," he said.
Piyabutr told the Cabinet yesterday that the National Economic and Social Development Board (NESDB) has proposed the development of a 20,000-rai industrial estate in the South, either in Surat Thani or Nakhon Si Thammarat. A committee would be set up, chaired by NESDB secretary-general Ampon Kittampon, to conduct an in-depth feasibility study, including estimating an infrastructure development budget.
The Cabinet stressed that the study should focus on environmental impacts. The weekly meeting agreed to set up a committee of the public and private sectors and communities to supervise the environmental situation.
A fund for long-term development and a mechanism for controlling pollution emissions from industries would be considered for the future.
The new industrial estate study is expected to be completed and approved by the interim government.