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Klity Creek’s Fight Against Lead Pollution: The Unseen Peril in Thailand’s Pristine Waters

At the heart of Thong Pha Phum district, the picturesque serenity of Klity Creek masks a sobering reality that belies its tranquil facade. The specter of lead pollution haunts this idyllic stretch, as local residents mount a campaign of persistence against the encroaching tide of toxicity. Their adversary? A leviathan of lead-laden sediment, brazenly defying efforts at decontamination by the esteemed Pollution Control Department (PCD).

Embroiled in their environment’s narrative of neglect, the village folk of Klity Creek have sought to bring the province to action, forging petitions laden with the weight of compelling testimony. They urgently propound that a monumental 800,000 tonnes of toxically tainted debris stubbornly persists, spitefully lurking within their midst despite the PCD’s much-lauded cleanup crusade.

In a pursuit for environmental justice, the villagers warn that the gnawing ghost of pollution lingers on, poised to relentlessly contaminate their beloved waterway until the ominous sediment is excised with due diligence and dispatched to appropriate repositories for safe disposal.

A local luminary, Sathaporn Thongphaphumpattawee, bears witness to the frightening resurgence of contamination, with lead concentrations rebounding from a reduced rate of 4,000–5,000 milligrammes per kilogramme (mg/kg) post-cleanup to an alarming 10,000-20,000 mg/kg. “The confluence of upstream sediments with our creek, it convolutes our waters,” he proclaims. “We implore the PCD: Hasten the healing of our habitat!”

Charred into history by the Supreme Administrative Court’s decree of 2013, the PCD was charged with the Herculean task of purifying a 12-kilometre tract of the waterway, once sullied by the profuse outpour of lead from a shuttered factory, Lead Concentrates (Thailand). The shutter was clamped shut without ceremony in 1998, but the echoes of its operations resonate to this day.

In the annals of Klity village, the year 2004 marked the inception of a legal odyssey, as 22 residents stood arrayed against the goliath of lead contamination spawned by bygone mining endeavors. With a treasure trove of 700 million baht at its disposal from 2017 through 2022, the PCD’s efforts, albeit grand in scale, have been assailed for their lack of depth and efficacy.

Surapong Kongchantuk, a sentinel of human rights law actively engaged in the case, decried the absence of true sediment expulsion. “Relocated and buried,” he avows, “with no more than a sprinkling — less than 1% — secured away to sanctuaries of the forest. The sediment’s specter remains, unvanquished.”

Surapong raises the clarion call of caution: the peril of poison’s passage through the veins of the countryside, cascading into the Mae Klong, and beseeching the thresholds of Bangkok, before surrendering itself to the embrace of the Gulf of Thailand. It’s a mournful melody that plays on the strings of environmental distress.

Armed with petitions and a community’s fervent yearning for clarity, Siwakorn Wichianpreuat, director of Kanchanaburi’s environment office, promises engagement with the PCD. A fortnight is all the time granted for the department to unspool the narrative of their endeavours – to elucidate the saga of sediment, the cleanups conducted, and the rehabilitation rendered incomplete.

The warmth of hope’s embers flickers within the disquieted hearts of Klity Creek’s denizens as they await a resolution — one that promises to weave the silver strands of a pristine creek back into the tapestry of their lives, affording nature’s bounce back to its erstwhile splendor. One where the dance of dragonflies over crystal waters heralds the dawn of remediation, not just for them, but for the cradle of biodiversity that is their home.

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