The Nation 18 September 2012
By PHATSURANG DECHABUDDHARUNGSI
A conservation group submitted a petition with more than 9,000 signatures from people opposed to a controversial dam on the Mekong River to Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra yesterday, demanding the Thai government cease support for the Xayaburi Dam.
Representatives of the Thai People's Network gathered at Government House with posters that said "We, people from the Northeast, will not support PM Yingluck anymore", and the "Dam is killing us".
They called for Yingluck to come out to receive their petition and hear their demands, but she did not appear.
The group, together with a coalition of Towards Ecological Recovery and Regional Alliance (TERRA) and Save the Mekong, held an exhibition at the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre last week called 'Disaster on the Mekong: The Push for Xayaburi Dam', which pictures by top photographer Suthep Kritsanavarin.
Each photo shows aspects of life along the Mekong would be lost forever because of the dam.
Laos proposed building the dam on the Mekong at Thahouy district in Xayaburi province, to generate more than 1,000 MW of power to sell to Thailand. Thai construction firm Ch Karnchang is building the dam - the first on the mainstream of the river below China.
According to the International Rivers conservation group, the Xayaburi dam will, if completed, block critical fish migration routes for dozens of species to upper stretches of the Mekong as far as Chiang Saen in northern Thailand - an important spawning ground for the critically endangered Mekong giant catfish.
They said the dam would destroy the river's complex ecosystem, which serves as a significant fish habitat for local and migratory species. The dam would also block sediment flows, affecting agriculture, especially Thai eight provinces and far down to the Mekong Delta in Vietnam.
Cambodia and Vietnam have called on Vientiane to reconsider the project, saying it is a major threat to millions who depend on the river for food and livelihoods. The Mekong River Commission, which Thailand and Laos are also members of, agrees the dam should be delayed for proper studies of environmental impacts. But ministers in Laos say studies have already been done, and consultants they hired said there were no major negative impacts for the river.
These claims are disputed by representatives from Cambodia and Vietnam, plus fishing communities and the conservationists who rallied in Bangkok yesterday.