Green groups, residents want end to all dam projects

LOEI : All dam projects on the Mekong, Salween and domestic rivers must be halted to prevent negative impacts on the ecology and residential areas, an environmental network says.

The Northern River Basin Network made its plea in a statement marking the International Day of Action against Dams and for Rivers, Water and Life.

Network coordinator Prasithiporn Kan-ornsri said the planned constructions of hydroelectric dams on the Salween and Mekong rivers would have a negative impact on more than 60 million riverside people in Burma, Cambodia, Laos and Thailand.

Mr Prasithiporn said the government should stand up against the proposed dams.

Several dams have been planned on the Salween and Mekong rivers.

“The Chinese dams built on the Mekong upstream have brought grave damages to the communities living along the river,” Mr Prasithiporn said.

“The Thai government’s support of dam construction in the Mekong River will add more troubles to the riverine communities.”

The network called on the government to scrap six proposed dams on domestic rivers. They are Kaeng Sue Ten dam in Phrae, Mae Wong dam (Nakhon Sawan), Pong Khunphet dam (Chaiyaphum), Ta Sae and Rublor dams (Chumphon) and Lam Dome Yai (Ubon Ratchathani).

The network also demanded the government permanently open sluice gates at Pak Moon dam in Ubon Ratchathani to revive the river’s ecology and allow fish migration between the Moon and Mekong rivers.

The cabinet last week said it needed 45 more days to study whether the sluice gates should be opened all year long, as proposed by villagers and academics.

Environmentalist Hannarong Yaowaloes, chairman of Thai-Water Partnership, said the government should stop giving support to the 107 billion baht Xayaburi dam along the Lower Mekong as the dam would pose a serious threat to the ecology and riverside communities.

“People in Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand will suffer negative impacts from the dam,” he said.

The Xayaburi dam would only worsen water fluctuation and severe drought in the Mekong believed to result from the Chinese dams upstream, he said.

Developed by the Lao government, the construction is expected to start this year.

It will sell electricity to Thailand.

Chaweewan Chaikhan, a villager of Nong Khai’s Si Chiang Mai district, said her village, which is situated on the Mekong River bank, had seen unusual water patterns and dryness since the Chinese dams became operational.

The first Chinese dam on the Mekong River, Manwan dam, began operation in 1993.

“There is not enough water for farming, leading to water conflicts in the community,” said Ms Chaweewan.

“This problem will worsen if more dams are built on the Mekong.”

The network of Mekong River communities in six northeastern provinces yesterday issued a statement opposing the Xayaburi dam, saying they would boycott four Thai commercial banks providing loans for Ch Karnchang, the company contracted to develop the project with the Lao government in 2008.

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