Report by: Sirarom Techasriamornrat
Photo by: Methavajee Sarakune
Translated by Pantharee Sujitvarong
After years of being discussed and drafted, the new city plan for Chachoengsao has finally been put into practice in 2013 thanks to a long-term cooperation and public participation process among local civic networks and state agencies. But with the launch of EEC project recently, it seems the dream of Pad Riew residents to determine their province’s zoning may not be materialized soon.
Pad Riew City Plan phase I
Past – 2012
Before 2012, Chachoengsao province, locally nicknamed Pad Riew, had been affected by the impacts from big industrial projects of both government and private sectors, especially the ones initiated as a result of the province’s lack of concrete town planning regulation. Several factories were able to be erected outside of the industrial zone. Prime examples were the coal-fueled power plant project, aimed to take place in Bang Khla district, and the landfill project in Nong Nae district. If allowed, both projects would be situated near major agricultural and conservation zones. Back then, many residents, mostly farmers, thought the projects would affect their livelihood, health, and the environment, so they came together to oppose the projects.
Because of these zoning disputes, in 2012, the locals believed it was important to set up a city plan to serve as the master blueprint for land use and development in the province, and help regulate industrial activities in the area. They formed the Pad Riew Assembly to be a community where local people could express, share, and exchange their views on how the land use and development plan should be, and later voiced their views to responsible authorities who had been working on drafting the city plan for years but had yet to gain support and participation from local sectors.
On July 3, 2013, Department of Public Works and Town Planning (DPT), Ministry of Interior officially announced the implementation of Chachoengsao city plan. Under the new ministerial regulation, Chachoengsao is proportionately divided into different zones for agriculture, residential area, natural resource conservation, and industrial zones. The Green Zone, set for farming areas, is the largest, followed by the Pink Zone for residential areas, the Blue Zone for conservation areas, and the Purple Zone for industrial sector which occupies the least area.
After the new city plan became in effect, the DPT later announced its operations to amend and modernize the plan by dividing them into two phases: the urgent phase and the following phase. The urgent phase focuses on making existing plan more flexible, while the following phase focuses on laying out a new plan under consultancy firms.
Seeing the imminent changes, the Pad Riew Assembly continued to organize public forums across the province to inform people about the new town planning. The group also gathered feedbacks and opinions from community members and voiced them to the DPT and its consultancy firms.
But the amendment process came to a halt in late 2015 when the EEC project was introduced.
On January 20, 2016, the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) issued Orders 3/2559 and 4/2559, revoking the city plans of Chachoengsao, Rayong and Chonburi.
The reason behind these orders was the proposed mega project, aiming to turn three provinces into special economic zones again. This move carried forward the Prem Tinsulanonda government’s 1982 Eastern Seaboard project, which was initiated to boost the country’s economy and, at the same time, gave rise to ongoing detrimental impact on the locals’ health and environment.
On October 25, 2017, Order 47/2560 was issued, kicking start the drafting of new city plans that focus on development of infrastructure and public utilities in the region, in tune with the EEC project. Meanwhile, the suspended city plan remains on hold.
During a public forum last May, a representative from the DPT explained the new EEC city plan would be divided into 2 phases, as follows:
Phase I: drafting the EEC city plan
The DPT was assigned to draft the EEC city plan that will cover the three Eastern provinces. This master plan has to be completed and enforced within a year. “This EEC city plan will be open for public participation, but not as much as the regular city planning process due to the limited time,” Montri Sukmuang, a DPT senior adviser pointed out.
Phase II: making the new city plan in line with EEC project
When the new EEC city plan is enacted, the DPT has to draft a new city plan for each province, and ensure they are in line with the EEC city plan.
Prachachart news website quoted DPT director-general Monthon Sudprasert on December 21, 2017, saying, “The government uses Section 44 ordering both the DPT and the Eastern Economic Corridor Policy Committee to finish the EEC city plan within six months, shorten from the former period of one year, to earn trust from investors. Even though this city plan draft is facilitated by the special order, we still welcomes public opinions.”
Following the launch of the EEC project and the revocation of the 2013 city plan, land price in the three provinces has considerably increased, particularly near the designated industrial areas.
Prachachart news website reported on April 5, 2017 that Chairman of the Chachoengsao Chamber of Commerce Wattana Rattanawong said that after the government announced the development plan of EEC, land sale has become more active and land price has gone double. However, since most of the land are in the agriculture zone, there aren’t many industrial investments. The land will be developed for better residential conditions, especially in the city including Muang, Ban Pho and Bang Khla districts which may house those working in the EEC.
Vibul Kromadit, board member and marketing director of Amata Corporation, told Prachachart in the same report that, Amata has received around 1 billion baht profit from land sale in the area.
Kann Tattiyakul, a Bang Khla native and a coordinator of EEC Watch, a civil society group set up to monitor the EEC project and its potential impact on the locals and environment, shared his thoughts on changes to the Chachoengsao city plan caused by the EEC project.
The first point of concern is the fact that the EEC city plan undermines agricultural area, and essentially, food security. Kaan said the new plan never mentions these issues, but instead focuses on infrastructure and industry expansion. He was worried that the potential of community as an agriculture and food hub will be overlooked.
The second problem is, as Kaan pointed out, the EEC plan does not clearly lay out plans for existing communities and their compensation, if their residence is to be removed. By doing so, the coordinator felt that the EEC project is aimed to conjure up a new city instead of improving on the existing ones.
The final point of concern is environmental impact, particularly air and water pollutions as well as drought. Kaan said problems stemmed from existing industrial districts have yet to be resolved.
“We are worried because the old problems still haven’t been managed, and new ones are coming in. What the Eastern Seaboard project has left us are health and environment problems, causing the collapse of community resources, ” the EEC Watch coordinator added.
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