Panel of experts demands more details; govt mega-project put on hold
The state environment-watch agency yesterday decided not to give the green light to Nakhon Sawan’s Mae Wong Dam project, putting the government’s flood-prevention mega-project in the doldrums again.
According to an expert panel of the Office of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy and Planning (ONEP), the latest Environmental and Health Impact (EHIA) report submitted by the Royal Irrigation Department (RID) did not meet the criteria set by the panel.
“The panel did not approve this project because the EHIA report was not complete. It did not cover every dimension of the impact the project would have. The RID needs to improve the report and return it to us,” said Raweewan Bhuridej, ONEP deputy secretary-general.
The government this year approved a Bt13-billion budget in principle for the RID to go ahead with the long-planned Mae Wong Dam, which is meant to prevent flooding and drought in Nakhon Sawan’s Lat Yao district and surrounding areas.
The RID has conducted up to 10 environmental-impact studies since 1995 and submitted the reports to the National Environmental Board and its panel of experts, but the study has always been rejected.
Then in August last year, the RID hired an environmental consultant/creative technology company to conduct the EHIA for the dam project, which was submitted yesterday.
According to the panel, the RID needs to add more information as well as provide a detailed map of the area that will be affected. The experts also want more details about the methods used to conduct the study and survey the forest area.
As per initial plans, the project is meant to cover 13,000 rai (2,080 hectares) of the Mae Wong National Park in Nakhon Sawan, and according to the EHIA report, the dam will only retain about 258 million cubic metres of water and irrigate about 291,000 rai of land.
“We have been asked for answers to about 20 key questions related to the EHIA of this project,” Somkiat Prajamwong, director of the RID’s Office of Project Management, said after meeting with the ONEP panel.
The panel also wants the RID to provide a comparison of the impact the dam would have on Sob Kok and Khao Chon Khan mountains as well as hold a brainstorming session with experts, Somkiat said.
However, he said, the RID had already tried to collect information about the impact the dam would have on the Mae Wong National Park, but it was prevented by the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation from conducting the study.
“We will revise the EHIA report and re-submit it to the panel as soon as possible,” he said.
Raweewan said the ONEP had not set a deadline for the report.