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Kanchanaburi’s Water Tunnel Project Controversy: Balancing Conservation and Development at Salak Phra Wildlife Sanctuary

Imagine gliding over the dense canopy of Salak Phra Wildlife Sanctuary, the green heart of Kanchanaburi, only to have your breath taken away by the sight of ominous smoke billowing into the sky. This is a reality that was captured in a stunning aerial photograph on February 6, setting the scene for a tale of nature, technology, and the delicate balance between them.

In an effort to battle the relentless summer droughts that have left the eastern part of Kanchanaburi parched and gasping, the Royal Irrigation Department (RID) paired with the Office of the National Water Resources (ONWR) have unveiled ambitious plans. Their answer is a colossal water tunnel network weaving through the sanctuary, a project that has stirred the waters of local and conservationist communities alike.

Painting a picture of salvation from aridity, the RID envisions this project as a lifeline to the districts of Bo Phloi, Huay Krachao, Lao Khwan, Nong Prue, and Phanom Thuan. The beacon of hope comes with a substantial price tag of 11,758.80 million baht and a timeline stretching from the dawn of 2027 to the twilight of 2032. But it’s not just about quenching the thirst of the land; the 20.5-kilometre-long tunnel promises to usher about 2.97 million cubic metres of water yearly to rejuvenate 486,098 rai of agricultural dreams.

Yet, where there is a project of such titanic proportions, the shadow of concern is seldom far behind. Conservationists, armed with love and fierce dedication to the sanctuary, raise their voices against the impending disruption. Their fear is not unfounded, as the sanctuary’s embrace holds a treasure trove of biodiversity, from whispering forests to the wildlife that dances within its shadows. Every route proposed, especially the controversial first and fifth, threatens to slice through the heart of Class A watersheds and cradle regions such as Thung Salak Phra and Thung Na Mon, igniting a clash between conservation and development.

The tale gets a twist with revelations from a guardian of the sanctuary, who speaks of lands where nature weaves its magic undisturbed. Here, in these nature reserve zones, wild animals frolic, rivers sing, and over 100 mineral licks provide a sanctuary within the sanctuary. The essence of these lands, they argue, is not just their bounty but their untouched, wild splendour which laws decree must remain unspoiled.

In a bold stand, the Seub Nakhasathien Foundation echoes the chorus of conservation, championing alternative solutions to Kanchanaburi’s thirst that don’t sacrifice the sanctuary’s soul. Their message is clear: in the quest for progress, let’s not forget the legacy of nature that sustains us all.

As the debate unravels, one thing is certain – the saga of the Salak Phra Wildlife Sanctuary, caught between the forces of nature and the march of human ambition, is a story that resonates beyond its borders. It speaks to our universal challenge of nurturing our planet while nurturing ourselves. So, as we watch this drama unfold, may we all ponder on the value of the wild, wonderful world we are entrusted to protect.


  1. EcoWarrior February 11, 2024

    This project is a disaster waiting to happen. How can we justify destroying crucial wildlife habitats for the sake of temporary agricultural gains? It’s short-sighted and harmful.

    • AgriAdvocate February 11, 2024

      It’s easy for you to say from the comfort of your home. Think about the farmers struggling every season because of drought. This project could be the difference between poverty and prosperity for many.

      • EcoWarrior February 11, 2024

        I understand the concerns of farmers, but there must be a sustainable way to address water shortages without compromising our natural reserves. Have we explored all alternative solutions sufficiently?

      • FarmerJoe February 11, 2024

        As a farmer in the area, I can tell you we’ve tried everything. Rainwater harvesting, drought-resistant crops… But none of it compares to the promise of consistent water supply this project offers.

    • ScienceBuff February 11, 2024

      Historically, these large infrastructure projects often fail to deliver their promised benefits and only cause more environmental harm in the long run. There’s ample research to support this.

  2. SkepticalSue February 11, 2024

    Anyone else feeling like the conservationists are overreacting? Development is a part of human evolution. We can’t just stop progress because of some theoretical environmental impact.

    • GreenGuru February 11, 2024

      It’s not theoretical when you have species that could go extinct, or ecosystems that could get irreversibly damaged. Conservationists aren’t against progress, they’re for sustainable progress.

      • SkepticalSue February 11, 2024

        Fair point, but what are the real alternatives here? The area needs water, and it needs it now. Are there viable, quick-to-implement solutions out there?

    • TechieTom February 11, 2024

      What if we invest more in technology to solve water scarcity, like desalination or improved water recycling methods, instead of these massive constructions?

  3. PolicyPete February 11, 2024

    The key issue is striking the right balance between conservation and development. It’s imperative that both sides work together to find a compromise. Maybe a revised, less invasive route for the tunnel can be considered?

    • EcoWarrior February 11, 2024

      A compromise sounds ideal, but it’s easier said than done. Any construction in the sanctuary poses a risk. It’s not just about the route; it’s about disturbing a delicate ecosystem.

  4. LocalLarry February 11, 2024

    As a local, I’m torn. I see the beauty of our sanctuary daily, but I also see the struggle of our farmers. It’s a tough call, but maybe it’s time we support a project that promises some relief.

    • BirdWatcher February 11, 2024

      I visit your area often for bird watching and it saddens me to think how this project could affect the bird population. It’s not just about the present, but about preserving nature for future generations too.

  5. FactFinder February 11, 2024

    Has anyone looked into the actual efficacy of these kinds of projects? It seems like a lot of money for something that isn’t guaranteed to solve the problem long-term.

    • AgriAdvocate February 11, 2024

      I think the main point is that it’s a step towards solving immediate issues. We can’t just sit back and watch as droughts ruin lives. Investment in infrastructure is a typical method to future-proof regions.

  6. CuriousCathy February 11, 2024

    This article raises important questions about how we value our natural reserves vs. our need for development. It’s a difficult balance, but necessary discussions to have.

    • SkepticalSue February 11, 2024

      Absolutely, it’s a conversation worth having. I just hope that whatever decision is made, it’s done with consideration of all stakeholders involved.

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