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Sunday, September 25, 2022

Pattaya mayor defends tree felling as part of latest beach renovation project

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Pattaya Mayor Sonthaya Kunplome defended the felling of popular trees as part of Pattaya Beach’s latest renovation.

Not to mention the main objection to the plan — spending 166 million baht on landscaping while thousands of people go hungry in Pattaya during the coronavirus pandemic, critics say Sonthaya’s plan is. According to the mayor, only a quarter of the trees would be cut down.

Speaking to the media earlier this week, Sonthaya appeared somewhat baffled at the online criticism of the plan and personal allegations against his person over the removal of sea almond trees, especially since all but one was nothing special and just had been in the ground for a few years.

The people of Pattaya have short memories as large numbers of trees and concrete walkways were removed in 2013 when Beach Road was widened for one of Pattaya Beach’s many facelifts.

Sea almond trees are a common softwood that grows like weeds, is not unique or highly prized, and the softwood breaks easily in high winds or storms, posing a hazard to beach vendors and users.

Of course, the online keyboard warriors – many of them European ex-pats – moaned loudly in August 2015 when Nong Nooch Landscape & Garden Design began removing large old trees as it began the 550 million baht overhaul of Jomtien Beach.

Forgetting that Pattaya Beach was getting new trees when the old ones were removed, critics complained that Jomtien Beach would be all sun on the concrete, with only rental umbrellas to protect itself.

That didn’t happen and there are now virtually no critics about the improved Jomtien landscape.

Only 25% of current trees are planned for removal, and the plan requires them to be replaced with new, less dangerous trees.

Sonthaya explained to the media that the common sea almond trees are just softwoods that grow like weeds. They are not unique or highly valued.

However, the softwood breaks easily in high winds or storms. The falling wood and fruit pose a constant threat to beach vendors and users, Sonthaya said.

The trees will be replaced with harder wood that provides as much, if not more, shade, he said.

None of this should be news to the residents of Pattaya, Sonthaya continued. The project has been in the works since 2019 and has been detailed in public hearings.

Present critics had ample opportunity to object in the years before the work began.

I’m just driving around town to watch food donations take place because while writing this piece in these difficult times, my stomach is starting to growl and not just from hunger.

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