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The Irrationality of Pak Mun Dam
By S. Nuntavorakarn, INFORSE Coordinator, SENT, Thailand

Evaluation shows that the World-Bank-funded dam causes drastic reduction in fish population. The $1 million fishladder is useless. The protests start to be more violant.
1st Evaluation Process
After a decade of negotiations and protests against the Pak Mun Dam, the first ever official evaluation of a power project in Thailand has been conducted. In 1998, the World Commission on Dams was established to address central issues of controversy with respect to large dams. Pak Mun Dam was selected as one of the cases to be studied. Academicians, scholars, and also the Tonkla Group for Alternative Economics Studies, a member of SENT, submitted the studies on development effectiveness. The studies covered various aspects of the dams - economic, hydro-power, fishery, environmental, and social.

The dramatic conclusions of the evaluation are that:
* The dam can only generate 53% of planned capacity.
* The benefit of the irrigation is zero, mainly because of the restrictive rules imposed during the dry season.
* The cost grew from the original estimate of 135 million USD to 233 million USD.
* The number of the fish species in the watershed declined from 265 to 96.
* The expected harvest of fish dropped from 220 kg/ha/year to 10 kg/ha/year.
• Total fishery income from the watershed fell from 30,000 THB to 3,000 THB.
Desperate Local Struggle
In March, 1999 about 5,000 villagers occupied the dam site and established a village there. In May, 2000 the villagers occupied the rest of the dam and the fish ladder. In the beginning, the local people demanded the fair compensation for the permanent loss of fisheries. Now, instead, they desperately demand to open all of the dam’s spillways to let the fish go upstream to spawn and recover the ecological system.
Under the pressure, the Government had set a Committee to consider the demands of local people. The Committee reached the consensus that the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT) should open all spillways for 4 months as a testing period. But EGAT has denied and still confirmed the importance of the dam for the power system. Even though, the dam has contributed to only 4% of the northeastern power system and less than 1% of Thailand power system.
Villagers Participation in Water Management?
The local people struggle for their rights to participate in the decision-making on the management of the Mun River, one of the most important local resources. This concept of the people’s participation in resource management is one of the most important basic concepts for sustainable development and sustainable society.
Open the Gates NOW!
After more than a year of intensive peaceful demonstrations, on July 16-17, the police used batons, shields, and tear gas against the protesters in Bangkok outside of the Government’s House. Almost 50 people were injured, and 225 villagers were arrested.
On July 24, several protestors in Washington, DC started fasting in solidarity with the villagers. 74 organizations from 21 countries have written to the Thai Prime Minister.
Pak Mun Facts
The Mun is the most important river in Thailand’s northeastern region, with a catchment area of 117,000 square kilometres (3 times the size of the Netherlands).
The construction of this 136-MW dam was started in 1990 and it was fully operational in 1994.
The expected benefits included irrigation potential for the area of 64,000 acres and increasing fish yield from the dam’s reservoir area.
This run-of-the-river dam had been expected to have less impact on the environment and on the local community because it does not need a big reservoir like most large dams. More than 20,000 people have been effected, however.
The dam has blocked the migration of fish, and a $1 million fish ladder, promoted by the World Bank’s fisheries experts, has proved useless.
The dam seems to be costing more than its worth.
More information etc.
Photo text::
Local people’s peaceful protests against big dams start to be more violent in the last years in Thailand.
On the photo: Villagers pray for the spirit of the river to protect them as the water rise in the occupied Rasi Salai Reservoir. Photo by:IRN, Nov.‘99.

More information:
International Rivers Network (IRN),
http://www.irn.org/; or
SENT, Thailand (See address on p. 12)
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ISSUE #30 (683KB) 18 pages (2000-08-11)
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