Suvarnabhumi neighbours file third complaint over noise and pollution
Dark clouds hang over plans to boost the capacity of Suvarnabhumi Airport, as residents’ complaints against noise and pollution could pose a major stumbling block to the second-phase and possibly the third-phase expansion projects.
The airport is the Kingdom’s major gateway, welcoming 72 per cent of visitor arrivals this year. The planned expansion is part of the government’s broad infrastructure development plan to boost annual tourism revenue to Bt2 trillion by 2015.
Transport Minister Chadchart Sittipunt said in a recent interview with The Nation he would handle the noise issue at Suvarnabhumi Airport with great care, realising that public trust is crucial before the government goes ahead with new infrastructure projects.
“Trust is the issue. We have to handle this well, or it could affect other new infrastructure projects being laid out by the government,” he said.
The government is planning a number of infrastructure projects worth a combined Bt2.2 trillion to boost the country’s competitiveness in preparation for regional economic integration.
Stop Global Warming Association (SGWA) yesterday lodged another complaint against Airports of Thailand (AOT) with the Central Administrative Court, raising the number of complaints from noise-affected residents to three. The SGWA represented two groups of residents near the airport to lodge the first two complaints.
SGWA president Srisuwan Janya has accused the AOT of never seriously helping affected people. “The environmental impact assessment [EIA] for the airport, which was revised in 2005, requires that the number of passengers not exceed 45 million in a year,” Srisuwan said, adding that the AOT expected the airport to accommodate 52.2 million passengers this year.
Locals have complained of pollution, exhaust fumes from planes, and vibrations that sometimes damage their houses. “People’s rights have been violated and we are calling on the court to intervene,” Srisuwan said. The court yesterday accepted the case for review.
Chadchart said yesterday people had the right to file the complaint, but personally, he wished all parties could work out the conflict in a peaceful way. On Sunday, he spent six hours with locals who expressed disagreement with the AOT’s solution. While the locals wanted the AOT to buy all buildings located along the NEF (Noise Exposure Forecast) 30-40 area, which is the most affected region, the AOT adheres to a 2007 Cabinet resolution that requires it only to fix damage caused to buildings.
“The AOT estimated that a total of Bt140 billion is needed for the purchases, but the locals said that only some want to sell their houses, worth about Bt20 billion. There are other problems; some locals have received less compensation than their next-door neighbours. This requires us to smooth out misunderstandings and come up with the fairest solution,” the minister said.
He said he would meet affected locals again after New Year and present proposals to the Cabinet very soon.
Acting AOT president Somchai Sawasdeepon said it was ready to follow the law. He insisted he was unaware that the EIA limited the AOT’s capacity to 45 million passengers per year.
Suvarnabhumi is in its second phase of development, which includes a new terminal and third runway to boost the airport’s annual capacity from 45 million to 60 million. While the third runway will be reserved for emergency use, a fourth runway is planned as part of the third-phase development to accommodate up to 90 million passengers.
Since the airport opened in 2006, AOT has paid out Bt3.89 billion in noise compensation to the owners of 16,317 buildings in NEF 30-40 and +40 areas, south and north of the airport, under Cabinet resolutions in 2007 and 2010.
Cabinet resolutions limit the compensation to Bt11.23 billion. The added noise resulting from the third runway would affect buildings in additional areas near the airport. AOT estimates compensation of about Bt7 billion would be necessary for this. As many as 406 people living north and south of the airport have assigned SGWA to represent them in the third complaint.