Prayut right to shelve Cambodia dam deal, but water shortage looms 

your say September 07, 2017 01:00

Re: “Prayut suspends Bt40-bn Cambodian dam project”, The Nation, yesterday.

The dam is meant to serve the huge demand for water from the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC), The Nation reports, while “the Irrigation Department argued that the fresh water supply would be sufficient for the next 12 years”.

Only 12 years ahead? I believe that the Thai government should be looking much further ahead when planning a major economic development like the EEC. Other mega-projects (such as the Chinese-Thai EEC railway) have a 30 year-plus payback period.


The Stung Nam Dam Project has pros and cons.

First the pros:

1. The EEC would get about 300 million cubic metres of fresh water free of charge.

2. Thailand and Cambodia both want to improve recently strained relations.

And now the cons:

1. Unattractively high – Bt10.75 per unit – cost of electricity from the dam.

2. Staggeringly high cost for the “water transport system” – a pipeline or tunnel – of Bt30 billion, three times the cost of the dam!

3. The estimated 300 million cubic metres of fresh water would satisfy only 5 per cent of the region’s projected 6,000 million shortfall.

4. Humongous cost for very little gain, with the remaining 95 per cent of the freshwater shortfall having to be found from somewhere else; a 200km pipeline that, besides costing three times more than the dam, will, if it is constructed by Thai contractors, develop multiple leaks, costing mega-baht to repair.


1. On the way to the BRICS summit in China, Thai officials spent the flight playing with a calculator before agreeing that the maths did not look good.

2. It just so happens that the Chinese are the world’s best at designing and building hydro-electric systems, and they usually offer unbeatable terms. Why did our PM attend the BRICS meeting?

3. Let’s hope there’s not too much bad feeling when the memorandum of understanding, signed with Cambodia, is suspended. Not a good situation – in anyone’s books.


I have to wonder who signed that memorandum of understanding for what seems to be a lousy deal. But I have a suggestion: as Thailand doesn’t need the water, tell them we’ll take the 300 million cubic metres as generating capacity, and buy 100 million megawatt hours at Bt2.6/MWh. At 24MW that should last nearly 500 years.