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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs        13  January 2011

Kanchanaburi tries eco-friendly change

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Thailand's Kanchanaburi, the province that encompasses the "Bridge over the River Kwai" historical site is moving ahead with a new initiative to develop the province as an eco-town, modeled on some cities in Japan.

The attempt is also aimed at offering some immunity for the province which is likely to encounter significant changes when megaprojects in the Burmese coastal city of Dawei, where a multi-billion-dollar port and industrial complex are planned, get under way.

"We're developing Kanchanaburi to be an eco-friendly area by encouraging manufacturers to comply with a zero-emissions pledge and other requirements that were applied successfully by Kawasaki in Japan," said Nataphon Wichienprerd, the governor of Kanchanaburi.

Kawasaki, a part of the Greater Tokyo Area, once was among several industrialised and polluted cities in Japan, but it was improved and remodeled to become an eco-town 14 years ago, in which people, industries and culture live in harmony with the environment.

As Kanchanaburi shares a 370- kilometre border with Burma and is close to Dawei, the Thai government plans to invest in infrastructure in the province such as a dual-track railway, necessary facilities and logistics systems to support megaprojects.

"These developments mean Kanchanaburi will have easy access to the sea through Dawei," he said. The Federation of Thai Industries in Kanchanaburi supports the development and seeks closer ties with Burmese businessmen. Last July, the Thailand-Myanmar Private Sector Joint Meeting in Dawei acknowledged the significance of the project and agreed to promote sister cities Kanchanaburi and Dawei, and Mae Sot in Tak and Myawadi.

Mr. Nataphon, who just took office, said the eco-friendly scheme also encourages local manufacturers to utilise reduce, reuse and recycle practices.

The province contains numerous agro-industry and farm-related businesses including seven sugar mills as well as several fruit and vegetable companies.

The province has also made all plants this year pledge to carry out corporate social responsibility activities. Some plants have committed to make biogas from waste, eliminating the use of wood for boilers, he said.

"We will also try not to allow any polluting industries to set up in Kanchanaburi. I give my word that no petrochemical plants will be approved by my office," he said. The provincial administration has set up working committees at all levels such as Team Tambon to drive forward the plans, as well as promoting Kanchanaburi as a key destination for eco-tourism. Of 12.4 million total rai, 7.44 million are forest and farm areas, allowing Kanchanaburi to become a venue for outdoor tourism, which generates the second largest income for the province behind industry, he said.

Last year 4.9 million tourists visited the province, and the River Kwai Bridge remains a must-visit spot, he added.

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