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.