Plans for some old dams unfortunately never die
Perhaps Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej thinks it is still the 1960s. As new prime minister, he autocratically announced water diversion projects for the Mekong and
In power for only four months, he has already revived almost all the historically rejected water infrastructure schemes, including the infamous Pa Mong dam _ the Mekong's
The Salween/Yuam-Bhumibol dam diversion appears it would be the most destructive to both forests and climate. The project consists of a dam on the
Even more rashly, the prime minister announced these schemes as a way to mitigate climate change.
How could that be? According to the World Commission on Dams, reservoirs emit up to 28% of global greenhouse gases, with tropical reservoirs being most to blame.
''All large dams and natural lakes in the boreal and tropical regions that have been measured emit greenhouse gases [carbon dioxide, methane, or sometimes both].''
Mr Samak's logic is tragically wrong, and we will all pay the price for his folly.
This particular project will devastate at least 2,300 hectares of forest along the Thai-Burma border, a pristine jungle with hundreds of species. A simple calculation suggests that destroying the forests for the water diversion will release about 300,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide initially, and prevent thousands more tons from being absorbed every year.
Besides environmental damage, the diversion project will use an enormous amount of electricity to pump water uphill to the tunnel. The energy to be used is 320 megawatts _ three times the controversial Pak Moon dam's installed capacity, or enough for 98,000 homes.
Simply put, the rural poor and the environment always seem to bear the burden of the greedy and short-sighted dam builders in
Neither the rivers nor their water belong exclusively to
First of all, the projects need complete and transparent impact assessments. A valid environmental impact assessment (EIA) must include an analysis of the need for the project, a valid purpose, a range of alternatives and full public participation that includes providing local people with the chance to see the EIA before it is adopted.
Further, the consideration of the cumulative impact of all of these projects taken together has never been performed _ the piecemeal analysis of individual projects hides the gross harm of repeated industrial development schemes. Many EIAs that affect
The new 2007 constitution requires a health impact assessment (HIA), but none of these projects has been considered. The loss of farmland and fisheries upstream on the Yuam could easily overcome any positive impact of more water flowing down the
As a result of these deficiencies, approval of the schemes should be immediately withdrawn. A transparent process with informed public participation, particularly for affected communities, that also includes all riparian countries, must be undertaken instead to avoid future conflicts.
There is a lesson the prime minister seems to have failed to learn from the Pak Moon dam, which to this day has failed to realise Egat's promises. An outstanding one is the World Commission on Dams' case study that concluded in 2000 that: ''If all the benefits and costs were adequately assessed it is unlikely that the project would have been built in the current context.''
Mr Prime Minister, pay attention. It is now 2008, and the mistakes that were missed 40 years ago will cause even more severe problems if undertaken now.
Pianporn Deetes is a campaigner with