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Trees make way for pipeline

Trees make way for pipeline

Chakrit Ridmontri (Kanchanaburi)

Bangkok Post, December 7, 1997

Wrist-sized trees scattered along the foot of Pi Teu mountain are being
uprooted from their habitat, which is classified as first and second class
watershed forest, to make way for a gas pipeline.

The removed trees will be transplanted elsewhere. But for trees with a
circumference larger than 60 centimetres, they will be axed and hauled away
for sale.

Then bulldozers will clear remaining shrubs and bamboo clumps to make way
for the 20-metre width corridor. At the middle of the passage, a
three-metre ditch will be dug to allow the gas pipeline to be laid.

The Petroleum Authority of Thailand (PTT) is to lay the gas pipeline
through forests from the border of Thailand and Burma at I-tong village to
Pi Teu mountain at Kui Yae village, Thong Pha Phum district.

The PTT which signed contracts to buy natural gas from Yadana and Yetagon
fields in Burma's Andaman sea is responsible for laying the 260-km long
pipeline in Thailand.

It started from I-tong village, which is the connection point with Burmese
portion, and end at a gas power plant of the Electricity Generating
Authority of Thailand in Ratchaburi.

The pipe-laying operation began early this year after the National
Environment Board approved the project's environmental impact study (EIA).

Most of the work has been expect for the first 50-kilometre route which
passes through forests. The areas are home to rare species of animals such
as wild elephants, hog-nose bat and queen crab. The latter two species are
found only in the forests along the designated gas pipeline route.

The project's EIA study requires the PTT to lay the pipeline through the
forests in one dry season so as to avoid harming wildlife.

Songkiet Tansamrit, PTT's director of public relations, said that about 600
rai of forests will be cleared to lay the pipeline in the forest section.

The pipeline will pass through watershed forests, Sai Yok national part,
forest reserved areas, forest plantations, communities and mines.

He said only a six-kilometre stretch - between 20th to 25th kilometres of
the forest section - is lush forest, while the remaining areas are degraded.

Despite cabinet approval that the PTT cut all the trees in the 20-metre
corridor along the 50-kilometre forest section, Mr Songkiat said for the
sake of nature, the PTT would remove and transplant valuable trees such as
hardwood to other areas that are appropriate for them.

Lert Chanthanaphap, a forestry lecturer at Kasesart University who hire by
PTT to oversee the transplant work, said trees with circumference less than
60 centimetres would be removed  and transplanted immediately.

However, there are two options for bigger trees: axe them or reroute the
gas pipeline away from those trees. He said: "We should praise the PTT for
trying to transplant trees. We have to accept that the mission will not be
one hundred percent successful but this shows that the PTT listens to the
public and committed to do the best for social good and the environment."

Mr Lert said that about 80 teak trees were removed from the plantations and
more than 2,000 trees have been marked for further removal. He declined to
reveal the number of big trees to be axed.

The transplant operation started on December 5 to celebrate the King's
birthday. Initially, the PTT hired villagers from tambon Lin Thin and Huey
Kha Yeng to dig the trees in the 20-metre corridor between pipeline
kilometres 43rd to 47th which is the first and second class watershed forests.