Community and Environment Management

Thanawat Kaew-Pongpan

A dialogue on Community and Environment Management was held at Koh Yao Wittaya School on Koh Yao Noi in Phang Nga Province on Saturday 27th, February 2010 with objectives to provide open forum where all stakeholders in the island can exchange their views in order to find solutions for their environmental problems. 62 people attended and they were from central and local authorities, people from business sectors, community leaders, conservationists, school teachers and even students.

Koh Yao Noi locates in the inner sea between Phuket Island and Phang Nga mainland. It takes 45 minutes to reach the island by boats, leaving from a public pier in Phuket at every hour daily . Total population of 4,000 is mostly Muslims living on fishing and farming. Its hilly landscape and beautiful white coral beaches attracted tourists from all over the world including domestic ones. Tourism boom in Koh Yao benefits both investors and local people. Their old simple rural life was changed to embrace new lifestyle- consumers way-of-living. The more they consume the more waste they deliver. Lacking of waste management knowledge, their villages are polluted with solid waste as well as waste water from villages and resorts was directly discharged into canals and sea. Koh Yao local authority, the Tambon Administration Organization is not capable and knowledgeable to solve the problems and the decentralization of power does not encourage central authority to solve the problem.

Our program started with Mr. Tananuwat Keawphanpong informed the local community on their rights, according to the 2007 Constitution, in conserving and safeguarding the environment. Quoting Section 67, he said, Any project or activity which may affect the quality of the environment shall not be permitted, unless its impacts on the quality of the environment have been studied and evaluated and opinions of an independent organization, consisting of representatives from private environmental organizations and from higher education institutions providing studies in the environmental field, have been obtained prior to the operation of such project or activity. Tananuwat urged the audience to aware their rights and responsibility and cooperate among themselves and with local authority, in solving and design measures to solve environmental problems particularly household garbage.

Ms. Sutida Ratakarn, an architect who designed many resorts in Thailand and abroad shared her experiences on environmental management. In order to safeguard the environment, many countries have measures to limit number of tourists or barring of outside food and beverages. Few countries do have environmental-friendly policy such as selecting only qualified and cultural tourists. Sutida shared the same opinion as Tananuwat in encouraging the local people to THINK what they would like their island to be in the future and start making a plan towards those goals.

After the two speakers finished, many audiences shared their views and made recommendations on how to solve solid waste problems. A youth who join volunteer group in cleaning the beach remarked he would like to see more adults participation. Other issues, such as shortage of electricity and fresh water supply were also raised. IPPS Co-Director, Tippaporn Tantisuntorn, shared her youth experience in the Northeastern rural area that many households, including hers, stored rain water in cement jars. Rain water in the monsoon climate, like Koh Yao, should be sufficient for annual consumption.

Director of the Regional Environment Office, Region 15, Mr. Thongchai Poowachiranon, suggested local authority to do zoning plan for areas of tourism development. Without zoning, local authority is unable to calculate amount of water supply and electricity needed. Facility and utility plans are basis of waste management and local authority is now entitled to do these jobs. Regarding to lack of knowledge, cooperation form outside agency such as central or regional government organizations or academic institutions can be sought but most of all, local people must realize their rights as written in the Constitution.

The dialogue inspired the audience to see their environmental problems in different perspectives and realized that it could not be solved by state policy or law enforcement alone. Key word to solve any problem in the democratic society is public participation and public cooperation and this also apply to Koh Yaos problem. The environmental management in Koh Yao should be started at the village and community level and every citizen has rights and obligation to cooperation with local and central authorities in tackle the problem.

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