Loei residents, conservationists oppose plan for latest Mekong dam

The Nation 11 November 2010


Local residents and conservationists yesterday stood in strong opposition against the Thai-Laos plan to jointly construct a Bt69-billion hydroelectric dam over the Mekong River.

The dam, if constructed, will be partially located in Loei’s Pak Chom district and will have the capacity to generate up to 1,079 megawatts of electricity.

More than 200 residents, conservationists and representatives from various organisations attended a public forum on the Pak Chom Hydroelectric Dam yesterday.

The event, held to sound out the public opinion, was organised by the Thai Health Promotion Foundation, the Office of the National Health Commission and other organisations along with the Senate panel on anti-corruption and good governance and the Senate subcommittee on the Mekong Basin development and its impacts.

Pitakchai Singbun, who represents the Tai Chiang Khan Love Their City Group, said local residents would not benefit from the dam at all. “With the dam, flood levels will likely rise by another two metres during the rainy season,” he warned.

Representative of the Pak Chom Conservation Group, Pornpimon Janhorm, asked: “Who will be responsible if the dam ruins the beauty of the Mekong? Today, the Mekong is home to more than 1,000 species of fish.”

She added that local residents should not be forced to sacrifice their livelihoods for the benefit of people living elsewhere. “The dam will also disintegrate our communities,” she said.

According to Udon Thani Rajabhat University’s lecturer Santipap Siriwattanapaiboon, locals would end up becoming migrant workers after the dam destroyed their hometown’s environment and natural abundance.

Niwat Roykaew, a conservationist from Chiang Rai, said people should learn a lesson from what the China-based dams have done to the lives of people living downstream of the Mekong.

“The dams have not eased water shortage or drought,” he pointed out. “They’ve only caused problems.”

A local resident said he wanted the dam-construction plan to be scrapped. “Who will help us if our houses get flooded?” he asked.

Deputy director general of the Department of Alternative Energy Development and Efficiency, Suthep Liamsiricharoen, said yesterday that his department had not included the construction of the Pak Chom Dam in the national energy-development plan.

“We are just in the process of conducting a study,” he said.

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