THEPA, Thailand – 17 December 2019 - The Green World Network, a community network in Songkhla Province in Southern Thailand, has been fighting to protect their community rights, natural resources, and their environment from unsustainable development. The Network has protested since 2014, when the Royal Thai Government (RTG) announced the construction of Thailand’s biggest power plant ‘the Thepa coal-fired power plant’ in Thepa District, an area rich in natural resources, located near the Pattani gulf, where fishermen communities have settled.
In 2014, communities in the surrounding area had foreseen the negative consequences of the power plant on their livelihood, natural resources, and the environment. The construction of the power plant and its impacts would lead for example to depleted and polluted resources, decreased income sources and worsened health for those living in surrounding areas. The Green World Network opposed the construction of the power plant, and the project was finally put on halt in early 2018. Since then, the Network has continued to monitor the situation around the power plant. However, the Network realised that in order to strengthen their fight against the construction of the power plant, obtaining credible evidence is key. Since 2018, Manushya Foundation has been providing technical assistance and financial support through subgrants to the Green World Network in order for them to build strategic information, raise awareness among affected communities and fight for their rights. As a result, following the organisation of a Community-led Research Workshop in January 2019 whereby participants were taught how to gather credible evidence, the Network conducted its own research and developed community maps.
On 16 December 2019, the Green World Network organised a public forum to present the findings of their research and the community maps to community members. Mr. Direk, Leader of the Green World Network, opened the forum by explaining the goal of the project: Developing community maps, including information on households, land, and natural resources in the area. These maps demonstrate how rich the area is in resources, cultures, and traditions, which would be destroyed by the construction of the power plant. These maps will then be used as credible evidence in the Network’s discussions with local authorities, aiming to cancel the construction of the plant.
Mr. Sanusee, member of the Green World Network
“In order to continue our fight against the construction of the power plant, we need credible evidence, otherwise nobody believes us, even though we tell the truth.”
Continuing, Mr. Madtayom, Mr. Armeen, and Ms. Pattama, members of the Green World Network who took part in conducting the research, explained that in order to conduct the research, two teams went on the ground to gather data in a radius of five, and in a radius of 30 kilometer from the location of the power plant. Both teams used GPS to locate households, land, and natural resources in the area. The team gathered data in a radius of five kilometer found (1) 4,161 households; (2) 1,390 plots of agricultural land, and (3) 174 places which contain natural resources (such as forests, mangroves, the sea, etc.). They found as well that watermelon and pumpkin are the main products cultivated in the area, demonstrating that the land is resourceful. This is important evidence as it contradicts the Environment and Health Impact Assessment (EHIA) report published by the investor, which indicated that the surrounding lands are unsuitable for cultivation. Lastly, the team found that the majority of the communities in the area are dependent on natural resources as the main occupations are fishermen and farmers.
Mr. Madtayom, member of the Green World Network
“It is important to develop the community maps because we can use these as evidence during discussions with authorities about the construction of the power plant. The community maps are also important for awareness raising because in our area, communities lack knowledge of the adverse impacts of the power plant, resulting in some people supporting the power plant. I am confident that our community mapping is more credible than the EHIA report of the company because we went on the ground while they did not. If investors and authorities do not believe our findings, they should come to see our area by themselves. We must continue fighting.”
Further, Mr. Madtayom and Mr. Armeen provided the challenges they faced while conducting the research. First of all, they explained that in some sub-districts, communities were more willing to collaborate and provide information. For example, the teams were not allowed to collect data in areas where supporters of the power plant live, such as Praputh District. On top of that, the team faced difficulties using the GPS, which did not always work, resulting in delays of the work as parts had to be re-done.
Mr. Armeen, member of the Green World Network
“In some areas the local people did not understand why we came to collect data. After we explained to them the project and the adverse impacts of the power plant they understood and were willing to collaborate and let us conduct the research in their area.”
In 2020, the Green World Network will continue their fight against the power plant. The Network will share the community maps and report with local government authorities to demonstrate the negative impact the power plant will have on surrounding areas and communities, and will urge authorities to cancel the construction of the power plant. Additionally, the Green World Network is concerned about the construction of the second Songkhla deep-sea port and about the establishment of a special economic zone in Chana district in Songkhla, covering 16,753 Rai (26.8 square kilometer). For the latter, investors have already started to buy land from communities living in the area. Being concerned about these government projects, the Green World Network plans to conduct an impact assessment of these projects on the surrounding communities, their natural resources, and the environment.
In 2020, Manushya Foundation is proud to continue supporting the invaluable work of the Global Green Network to fight for their communities’ rights, and protect their natural resources and the environment.
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