THE NATION Issued date 1 October 2014
THE MAE TAO river basin in Tak province, which has been affected by cadmium contamination from mining operations for a decade, will be declared a protected area by mid next year, a senior official at the Office of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy and Planning (ONEP) said yesterday.
ONEP Community and Specific Area Environment Section head Weeranit Thansuporn was speaking at a seminar on the “roadmap” for a Mae Tao protection area and promoting local villagers’ health.
He said ONEP was pushing to have the Mae Tao protected area draft to be a ministerial regulation. The draft would be submitted to the National Environmental Board by December, so it should be submitted for approval by the Cabinet and implementation by mid-2015, he said.
Environment, life quality
According to the draft content, the Mae Tao protected area would cover three sub-districts – tambon Phra That Pa Daeng, Mae Ku and Mae Tao, which were all affected by mining-triggered cadmium contamination.
The draft includes a plan for the environment, life quality and health rehabilitation. It also would cover three zonings of the area; the zone with mineral potential, the zone within a 1.5km radius from the contaminated Mae Tao stream and within a one-kilometre radius from Mae Ku stream; and the zone beyond the first and second zones.
The move came after the Central Administrative Court in 2010 ordered the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry to announce the Mae Tao area as a protected area under Article 43 of the 1992 National Environmental Quality Act.
Wisa Supanpaiboon, director of Naresuan University’s centre of excellence for sustainability of health and environment, said the soon-to-be Mae Tao protected area would be a tool to help local communities improve their lives. But, he said it would be different from other protected areas because it was announced only after the health and environmental damage occurred, while other zones aimed to get environmental protection in the first place.
To help the communities recover, Wisa suggested the draft address the cadmium-laden zones to be avoided, and for soil quality revamp measures to help the villagers’ farming and livelihoods.
The health impact assessment co-ordinating unit committee chairman, Wiput Phoolcharoen, said the protected area would usher in locals’ participation in the planning for community recovery.
Community leader Yannaphat Praimeesab urged the Department of Primary Industries and Mines to speed up the establishment of a Bt11-million environment and health database centre, consisting of up-to-date data of cadmium contamination zones in the communities.
The centre should also be equipped with a health check-up centre to raise people’s awareness of cadmium levels in their bodies and how they can recover from them.
“We want the centre to be implemented as soon as possible.
“This will be the key for the locals to know their health condition. Besides, this data will be used to develop further plans for cooperation with the state for the area’s long-term recovery,” he added.