Smaller dams better than Kaeng Sua Ten, say locals
Locals and non-governmental organisations have urged the government to develop small and medium-sized dams instead of pushing for the Bt350-billion Kaeng Sua Ten dam, which they believe will not help prevent floods or drought, and instead destroy valuable teak forests and ecological systems.The Thai Water Partnership, the Sueb Nakasatien Foundation, the Network of Takonyom River Basin and other NGO groups yesterday held a seminar about the government's plan to construct the dam.
Nikomo Putta, a former Wildlife Fund Thailand official, said the Kaeng Sua Ten Dam construction would destroy the country's largest teak forest. He said that because floods and droughts were caused by deforestation, to solve both problems afforestation is needed, not the construction of a large dam.
Chainarong Setchua, an academic of Maha Sarakham University, said state officials and politicians at different times cited different reasons to justify the construction of Kaeng Sua Ten Dam depending on public sentiment, be it for irrigation, or the multi-purpose solving of floods or droughts.
"The World Bank is behind the dam construction. The government loves dam construction, believing it is a symbol of development. Other developed countries now want to demolish their dams in order to restore salmon stocks, but we are replacing our teak forest and ecological system with this large dam,'' he said.
He suggested alternatives to building large dams for the purpose of preventing floods and drought, such as developing wetlands, and water-retention areas such as monkey cheek projects.
Sasin Chalermlap, secretary-general of the Sueb Nakasatian Found-ation, said if the government wanted to prevent flooding in Sukhothai and Phrae, it need not build the Kaeng Sua Ten Dam but only build floodwalls and open more channels for water to be released from the Yom to the Nan and Chao Phraya rivers faster.
He said last year's flood was caused not only by an unusually high amount of rains, but also by local political interference in water management. "Locals said the Irrigation Department refused to release water from the Chao Phraya Dam because local politicians wanted farmers to have enough water for rice plantation,'' he said.
Weerawat Jiraprasart, chairman of Thai Environment Network, hailed locals' efforts in teaming up to oppose the government's push for a large dam. He cited eight studies that show the Kaeng Sua Ten Dam would not help prevent floods and droughts but would destroy Bt10 billion worth of teak forests spanning 24,000 rai.
Local leader Somming Muanglong said the Yom River was 735 kilometres long. He questioned how, if the dam is to be constructed at kilometre 115, the dam is going to prevent droughts or floods when it rains below the dam.
He said the dam construction would destroy 30,000 mixed-deciduous trees and that 1,000 families from four villages would have to be relocated from 10,000 rai of land. "We urge the government to rethink and opt for small- to medium-sized dams and reforestation programmes. First of all, it should solve existing problems caused by other large dams,'' he said.