August 26th, 2014
-- For immediate release --
Thailand is risking World Heritage Area, say scientists
An international scientific group has decried the Thai government’s plan to dramatically enlarge a roadway through one of its most important natural areas.
A two-lane road, called Highway 304, cuts through the Dong Phayayen-Khao Yai (DPKY) Forest Complex, a World Heritage Site in central Thailand renowned for its outstanding biodiversity. Now the Thai government wants to enlarge it into a much larger, four-lane highway.
“From an environmental perspective it’s truly dangerous,” said William Laurance, a professor at James Cook University in Australia and director of ALERT, the Alliance of Leading Environmental Researchers and Thinkers.
“This is a hotspot for nature—the largest tract of surviving forest in central Thailand and a globally famous tourist destination,” said Professor Lian Pin Koh at the University of Adelaide in Australia. “The park sustains a wealth of wildlife including Asian elephants, Gaur, Dhole, Leopards, several species of hornbills and gibbons, and over 2,500 plant species.”
The scientists fear that a greatly enlarged highway will fragment the park’s wildlife populations, increasing road kill of animals from fast-moving vehicles, and making it easier for illegal loggers and poachers to invade the park.
The scientists say the plans to enlarge the highway were fast-tracked by the current Thai government, and that there was minimal opportunity for expert opinion or public comment.
“We respectfully implore the Thai government to reconsider this decision,” said Thomas Lovejoy, a renowned ecologist and environmental advisor to three former U.S. presidents.
“The United Nations could declare the area a World Heritage Site in Danger if the government doesn’t show a stronger commitment to protecting this globally unique ecosystem,” said Lovejoy.
“The plan to expand Highway 304 should never have been proposed in the first place,” said Laurance. “Enlarging the highway could irreparably damage one of Thailand’s most vital ecosystems—and that would be a global tragedy.”
For further information:
Distinguished Professor William Laurance, James Cook University, Cairns, Australia
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Phone: 07-4038-1518 (+61-7-4038-1518 internationally)