BANGKOK, Jul 29, 2010 (IPS) – Northern Thai villagers living on Mekong River’s banks are poised to join a growing tide of opposition against a planned cascade of 11 dams to be built on the mainstream of South-east Asia’s largest body of water.
These communities, many of them from the northern Thai province of Chiang Rai, are drafting a petition to be submitted in the coming weeks to Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva. They see this step as the first in a long battle to protect a riverine culture and livelihood that has come down generations.
The target of the Thai villagers’ ire is the Sayaboury dam, to be built across a part of the Mekong that flows through neighbouring Laos. In opposing it, they are coming up against powerful Thai interests behind this dam project.
The 1,260-megawatt Sayaboury dam is the one in the most advanced planning stage among the 11 dams, followed by the 360-mw Don Sahong dam, which is also in Laos, where nine of the lower Mekong dams are to be built. Two other dams on the river’s mainstream are planned in Cambodia.
The backers of the Sayaboury dam include a Thai-based dam developer, four Thai commercial banks that are reported to have pledged funds for the dam and the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT), a state utility that signed an agreement in Laos in June to buy power once the new dam’s turbines come to life.
“The local communities are upset at the direct involvement of Thailand in a dam that could permanently damage their livelihood,” said Pianporn Deetes, coordinator of Save the Mekong Coalition, a Bangkok-based network of environmentalist and grassroots activists. “Their fishing livelihood will be affected, because the dams across the Mekong’s mainstream will damage fish migration patterns for spawning.” Continue reading “Thailand Faces Flak for Backing Mekong Dams”