Statement by the Thai People’s Network for Mekong Opposing the Concept of “Sustainable Hydropower Dam” and the Planned Meeting on the Issue

19 September 2013

Statement by the Thai People’s Network for Mekong Opposing the Concept of “Sustainable Hydropower Dam” and the Planned Meeting on the Issue

According to the series of two events titled: “Workshop and Public Hearing for Capacity Building, Awareness Raising and Communication on Sustainable Hydropower Projects”, one already held in Chiang Rai province (Thailand’s north) in August 2013 and the other one to be held in Nong Khai province (Thailand’s northeast) in September 2013, by the Secretariat of the Thai National Mekong Committee, the latter of which we, the Network of Community Organization Council in Seven Northeastern Provinces, were invited to attend; we, together with the undersigned, would like to put before the public our position opposing the concept of sustainable hydropower dams and refusing participation in the aforesaid workshop for the reasons explained below.

We have clear belief that letting the river flow freely is the real sustainability and utmost benefit for the people of entire river basin. No more of the world’s rivers is suitable for dam building. And the right to protect natural resources as well as rivers is a fundamental right of local people that must be recognised. A root of the problem is that different parties deny voice and knowledge of the locals that is of significance to the water governance while accepting only technical knowledge of those to whom natural resources do not belong. We affirm that the Government, the Mekong River Commission (MRC), the Department of Water Resources and dam beneficiaries have no rights to impose the concept of sustainable dam on the people whom dam will affect.

We have clear conclusion from painful experience of the past that, large-scale sustainable hydropower dam never exist in this world. The Xayaburi project in Lao PDR now under construction will surely never be the first dam of this kind. Obviously, impact of enormous scale from any dams in Thailand and elsewhere has never been cured. Those dam-inflicted in Thailand have since the first dam was built in the country continued to remain in suffering. A clear indication is Pak Mun Dam which the affected people have fought over the past 24 years and the problem has to date remained unresolved. Therefore, those inventing the concept of sustainable hydropower dam who are primarily the dam builders or dam beneficiaries absolutely have no legitimate right to bring forward this very concept.

In regard to the benefit sharing from dam, our clear conclusion is that financial benefit of the dam builders and the benefit that people receive from the river through sustainable utilisation, are completely different and conflicting. Hence, the concept of equitable sharing can never come to reality. As for the case of Xayaburi Dam construction on the Mekong mainstream, apparently, there is no benefit from the dam received by the affected people. Only does the Xayaburi Power Company benefit while the resettled villagers suffer injustices. Some beautiful words such as ‘sustainable hydropower’ and ‘benefit sharing’ may have arisen, but none of the agencies can guarantee that words as such will really be translated into practice by dam developers like the Xayaburi Power Company Limited or the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT).

The “Workshop and Public Hearing for Capacity Building, Awareness Raising and Communication on Sustainable Hydropower Projects” is in question of lacking legitimacy in many respects. Its objective lacks clarity especially amid the unclear role of the Mekong River Commission (MRC) that initiates the concept of ​​sustainable hydropower dam. It is too obvious that the MRC attempts to propagate the idea of ​​sustainable hydropower dams to people in Mekong region, making it a dam proponent, the image of which it has always denied. To date, none of the information re: sustainable dam concept is made available in Thai language for the Thai people to be informed about and agree/disagree to with reasonable amount of time prior to the occurrence of the workshop. There is no transparent, acceptable process for nomination and selection of workshop participants. Given that the meeting topic is widely and directly related to a large number of stakeholders, the meeting should be open to general public, instead of being limited to few participants.  Based on the meeting’s agenda, apparently participants have no platform to discuss freely, but merely listen to prepared presentations. Previously, the meetings organized for Xayaburi dam failed, lacked legitimacy and were not accepted by the people for it did not obey the rule and denied basic rights of local people. So is the aforesaid workshop that does not give importance to the people. It is merely an effort to build legitimacy for the concept of sustainable dam and benefit sharing from dam.

Finally we are aware that the workshop organizer has pre-determined the outcome that will not be in accordance with the recommendations made by participants to the August workshop held in Chiang Rai province. Therefore we refuse to participate in the aforesaid workshop and we will continuously oppose the idea of ​​sustainable hydropower dam till the end.

Signed and endorsed by following organizations:

1. Network of Community Organization Council of Seven Northeastern Provinces in Mekong Basin
(Network of members from 64 Sub-District Community Organization Councils in Loei, Nong Khai, Bueng Kan, Nakorn Phanom, Mukdahan, Amnat Charoen and Ubon Ratchathani)
2. Network of Community Organization Councils of Nong Khai

(Compound of 53 Sub-District Community Organization Councils)

3. Network of Community Organization Councils of Bueng Kan

(Compound of 33 Sub-District Community Organization Councils)

4. Network of Community Organization Councils of Ubon Ratchathani

(Compound of 80 Sub-District Community Organization Councils)

5. Youth Network of 9 Northeastern Provinces for Mekong Protection

(Youth Representatives from Loei, Nong Khai, Bueng Kan, Nakorn Phanom, Mukdahan, Amnat Charoen, Ubon Ratchathani, Udon Thani and Khon Kaen)

6. Network of Mekong River Fishermen in 7 Northeastern Provinces

(Representatives from Loei, Nong Khai, Bueng Kan, Nakorn Phanom, Mukdahan, Amnat Charoen and Ubon Ratchathani)

7. Network of Mekong River Agriculturists in 7 Northeastern Provinces

(Representatives from Loei, Nong Khai, Bueng Kan, Nakorn Phanom, Mukdahan, Amnat Charoen and Ubon Ratchathani)

8. Local Committee on Mun River Basin’s Life and Community Recovery, Ubon Ratchathani Province

9. Ruk Chiang Khan Group, Loei Province

10. Ruk Baan Gerd U-Mung Group, Chiang Khan, Loei Province

11. Hor Kham - Kai Si Youth Group, Bueng Kan Province

12. Hor Kham – Kai Si Local Fishermen Group, Bueng Kan Province

13. Network of people who are affected by river’s bank erosion problems in 7 Northeastern Provinces

(Representatives from Loei, Nong Khai, Bueng Kan, Nakorn Phanom, Mukdahan, Amnat Charoen and Ubon Ratchathani)

14. Network of tourism stakeholders in 7 Northeastern Provinces

(Representatives from Loei, Nong Khai, Bueng Kan, Nakorn Phanom, Mukdahan, Amnat Charoen and Ubon Ratchathani)

15. People Network of Nam Huay Mong Basin in Nong Khai, Udon Thani and Nong Bua Lam Phu

16. Dong Mafai Community Forest Protection Group, Nong Bua Lam Phu Province

17. Dong Mafai Sub-District Community Organization Council, Nong Bua Lam Phu Province

18. Chiang Khan Sub-District Community Organization Council, Loei Province

19. Pak Chom Sub-District Community Organization Council, Loei Province

20. Bu Hom Sub-District Community Organization Councils, Loei Province

21. Pla Ba Sub-District Community Organization Council, Loei Province

22. Network of people who are affected by transmission lines in Loei and Nong Bua Lam Phu

23. Isaan People Forum

24. Phu Wua Fprest Protection Group, Bueng Kan Province