Khao Yai threatened by highway project

From an article that appeared in Bangkok Post (now unlinkable?), re threat facing a key national park in Thailand.

A top wildlife official yesterday slammed the Highways Department's road improvement project in Khao Yai national park, saying it severely threatens Thailand's newest natural world heritage site. ''This is a destructive project,'' said National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department chief Damrong Pidej. ''We have repeatedly asked the department to revise the project, but they insist on going ahead with it.''

Under the plan, highway 304 through the park is to be widened from two to four lanes to facilitate transport between Pak Thong Chai district in Nakhon Ratchasima and Kabin Buri district in Prachin Buri. Built decades ago, the highway is the only shortcut between the Northeast and the Eastern regions.

Mr Damrong said the road project would tear apart the forest complex and seriously damage wildlife habitat.

Many wild animals had been struck by cars and killed on this road, he said, and widening the road would only worsen the situation.

The ongoing construction had adversely affected the ecological system, with many wild animals, including deer and reptiles, killed by heavy machinery working on the project, Mr Damrong said.

''It is a great shame that we cannot protect this world natural heritage site from destructive activities,'' he said.

The World Heritage Committee of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation last year designated the Dong Phaya Yen-Khao Yai forest complex as a natural world heritage site for its rich biological resources and rare tropical fauna and flora. ... Nisakorn Kositratna, secretary-general of the Office of National Resources and Environmental Policy and Planning, said the Highways Department was not required to conduct an environmental impact study of the highway 304 project because the work was taking place on an existing road.

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