Photograph courtesy of Thai PBS World

As Thailand eyes a leap into the profitable potash market, considerations loom massive over the potential environmental havoc it could unleash.

Residents within the neighborhood of Thailand’s solitary industrial potash mine have raised a refrain of apprehension, cautioning towards Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin’s grand imaginative and prescient to catapult the nation into a number one potash producer. Their considerations centred across the possible devastating environmental toll within the Isaan area, ring with urgency and worry.

Duenrung Munkhuntod, a farmer close to the Thai Kali Co mine in Nakhon Ratchasima’s Dan Khun Thot district, expressed profound scepticism.

“The prime minister talks about how fertiliser costs will drop. However what good will it do if our land turns into infertile?”

Thai Kali Co secured a 25-year mining license in 2015, beginning potash extraction in Dan Khun Thot in 2017. Nonetheless, operations hit a roadblock in 2019 when saltwater overflowed from mineshafts, ravaging the encompassing soil. Native environmentalists decried the air pollution’s dire affect on crops and water provide.

In Ban Sap Makham village, adjoining to the mine, the grim aftermath is starkly seen: salt crystals litter the bottom, and as soon as lush bushes now stand withered.

A resident, Supanee Thong-ulai reminisced that eight years in the past her household’s land plot was inexperienced and ample. At this time, a saline deluge engulfs half her property, whereas the rest lies barren amidst salt-crusted patches. The ominous unfold of the white phenomenon paints a harrowing image of the city’s plight.

Opposing pursuits

Including to the native misery is PM Srettha’s ultimatum demanding an acceleration in potash mining nationwide. In a daring transfer final November, he warned three licensed firms of potential revocation except operations commenced promptly.

Regardless of authorities assertions of Thailand’s substantial potash reserves, rating fourth globally, behind Canada, Belarus, and Russia, discontent simmers over the nation’s hefty potassium imports, draining billions yearly.

The federal government’s narrative touts a promising future, promising a major drop in potash-based fertiliser costs, translating to substantial financial savings for farmers and profitable export prospects. But, amid these rosy projections, dissent brews amongst affected communities, vehemently against the precipitous mining growth.

Trade Minister Pimphattra Wichaikul’s current directive, urging licensees to expedite funding plans, underscores the federal government’s unwavering dedication to its potash agenda. Nonetheless, grassroots resistance persists, with locals resolved to defend their land and livelihoods at any price, reported Thai PBS World.

In Chaiyaphum, ASEAN Potash Chaiyaphum Co, grappling to kickstart extraction, faces mounting opposition. Exams reveal alarming salinity ranges, rendering farmland barren and water sources undrinkable. Villagers decry the mine’s menacing encroachment, lamenting the toll on their once-thriving neighborhood.

Environmental assessments paint a dire image, citing in depth contamination of soil and water with chemical salts, exacerbating fears of irreversible ecological harm.

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