Part of Nan tree tunnels saved

Construction News Laos

One of the tree tunnels on a road between Muang and Tha Wang Pha districts in Nan is saved from the axeman. (Photo by Rarinthorn Petcharoen)

NAN – The Highways Department agreed on Wednesday to save part of a tunnel of trees endangered by road construction following an outcry from environmentalists and local people.

About 1,000 supporters and opponents of the expansion of a road linking Nan to the border with Laos in Chalerm Prakiat district held a meeting in Muang district with senior provincial officials and army officers to find a solution to the problem of the endangered trees.

Col Setthaphol Kettem, the army chief-of-staff in Nan, said the department agreed to leave a tree tunnel untouched for 800 metres from kilometre markers 13 to 14 at tambon Pha Sing in Muang district.

Speed limit signs and warning light signals will be installed in the area by highways officials for the safety of drivers and the road surface in the section will be upgraded, the officer added.

A meeting between officials and locals is held in Muang district of Nan on Wednesday to find a solution to the tree tunnels. (Photo by Rarinthorn Petcharoen)

The 80-kilometre-long road from Muang district to the Thai-Lao border at the Ban Huay Kon checkpoint has two tunnels of tree, about 2.5 kilometres long each.

The department plans to expand the two-lane road from 9 metres to 12 metres wide for better traffic flow between Muang and Tha Wang Pha districts, with old trees along the routes to be cut. The project sparked a protest by people in the northern province and other cities who launched an online campaign to protect the tunnels from being axed.

About 10,000 vehicles use the road every day, most of them lorries, according to the department. Abhisit Promsen, chief of the northern highways office based in Phrae, expected more cars and trucks to use the road after the Asean Community is launched at the end of this year.

Col Setthaphol said other sections of the road will be widened as planned but the department would keep the impact on the trees to a minimum.

More than 1,000 trees have been chopped down but environmentalists and tree lovers are protecting the tunnels from the construction.