Govt’s water management adviser revives Salween dam idea

Bangkok Post

CHIANG MAI : Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s adviser on water management has proposed the construction of a dam on the Salween River to solve floods and droughts as well as to produce electricity for the country.

Uthen Chatphinyo, Pheu Thai member and former chief of the committee overseeing water drainage to the sea under the Flood Relief Operation Centre, yesterday pitched an idea to dust off the Salween dam and water diversion projects, which were first studied by the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat) 20 years ago.

According to Egat’s study, water can be diverted from Salween River, which borders Thailand and Myanmar, to Mae Taeng River in Chiang Mai province. The water could then be channelled through natural waterways to Bhumibol dam in Tak province.

Speaking during his three-day inspection trip on water management in the North and Central provinces, Mr Uthen said the proposed 7,000-megawatt hydropower plant would be located about 200km down from the controversial Hut Gyi dam on the Salween River.

An 88km water tunnel would be built from the dam reservoir to divert water to Thailand.

The Hut Gyi dam, for which Egat is a joint developer, has been suspended following conflicts between the dam developers and minority groups occupying the dam site and outcry from human rights and environmental groups about the dam’s impacts.

Mr Uthen said the proposed 200-billion-baht dam and water diversion project is worth the investment.

The Salween dam would allow major dams in Thailand to discharge water ahead of the rainy season without having to worry about possible water shortages in the dry season because authorities could divert up to 3 billion cubic metres of water from Salween dam, he said.

The idea was not new and the scheme was approved by the Thaksin Administration in 2004, but had never materialised due to political changes.

Regarding possible conflicts with riverside residents, Mr Uthen said this should not be a problem because Myanmar’s political situation has stabilised.
 Pongdith Potchana, assistant to the Egat’s governor Sutat Patmasiriwat, said the hydropower dam is a key for clean energy development in the future.
 The 7,000 megawatts of electricity generated by the Salween dam would mean Thailand would not have to build more coal-fired power plants and could delay the construction of a nuclear power plant for 15 years.
Mr Uthen said he would propose the idea for Ms Yingluck’s consideration soon.
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