WATCH: Thailand’s EEC Megaprojects Threaten Chachoengsao’s Premium Rice Farms

Megaprojects under development in Chachoengsao are inciting worries among farmers in the eastern province about the impact of industry upon their land and crops.

The government, through the development of the Eastern Economic Corridor, plans to establish two industrial estates on vast areas of land, in addition to widening streets and building other facilities to serve the factories.

The agricultural areas which constitute 72.8 percent of Chachoengsao Province are the most important rice-growing areas in the country, with products consumed locally and exported.

Chacheongsao’s various crops  including rice, mangoes, snappers, eggs, and pork, have made it the center of premium agricultural products and food.

Farmers expressed their concerns over the shared use of water resources between industrial and agricultural areas, which could lead to pollution of farm land and the tainting of crops and damaging local environmental systems.

Somnuck Jongmeewasin, an independent scholar in environment and health, explained the unique features that distinguish Bang Pakong with its lowland topography and frequent rain.

“Bang Pakong is a three-water ecosystem where fresh, brackish, and brine water meet. Aquaculture in this region is well-known in South-East Asia. More importantly, without the Bang Pakong estuary, there won’t be the Bang Pakong Sea we know it.

“Those shellfish farms in the sea – the large mussels – are benefits of Bang Pakong River where the mussel sperms flow with the river to the estuary. It is the ecosystem we couldn’t find elsewhere in Eastern Thailand,” Jongmeewasin said.

The scholar also stressed that industries consume large amounts of water, which may lead to water scarcity in the end.

“Industry needs water as well. For example, one power plant use approximately 100 cu. meters of water a rai per day (approximately 256.4 cu. meters an acre a day). The car industry uses approximately 70-80 cu. meters a rai a day,” he said.

Jongmeewasin said the EEC claimed its projects used 2. 4 million cu. meters of water in 2017, “but that was wrong.

“I was the researcher who rechecked this after them as Thailand Science Research and Innovation … requested me a report for the Office of the National Water Resources to confirm the fact,” Jongmeewasin added. “And it turned out they calculated it wrong.”

Speaking to Bangkok Herald partner A24 News Agency, many aggrieved residents of the Khao Din Sub-district called on the government to elaborate on their plans and make the land divisions clear for the residents of the area.

“This province was specified as a fine agricultural area. The encroachment of factories surely will affect farmers’ lives and their production,” said Sarayut Sonraksa, coordinator of Rak Mae Phra Thoranee Network.

“There are land usage revisions from “green” agriculurual areas to “purple” industrial areas. We aren’t objecting to those investors who are trying to develop these lands. The only concern is how should we make them compatible. But there is no plan to do that at all.”