Activists push for Mae Wong Dam to be scrapped

Activists called yesterday for the Mae Wong Dam to be scrapped, ahead of the final decision today on the project’s Environmental Health Impact Assessment (EHIA) report.

Sasin Chalermlarp, chief of the Seub Nakhasathien Foundation, who has been camping outside the Office of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy and Planning, said his group would continue pushing for an alternative water-management system regardless of the outcome of the EHIA.

“This proposal would be a better option for effective water management, because the dam, if built, would not cater to local communities’ needs or preserve wildlife,” Sasin said.

The activist led a long march last year against the Mae Wong Dam plan.

The foundation proposed that ponds in the lower Mae Wong area be deepened further or new ones be dug so farmers have water to grow rice twice a year, instead of just once a year as would happen if the dam was built.

Besides, digging ponds in the Sakea Krang River basin’s agricultural zones would boost the area’s water storage capacity by 205.6 million cubic metres and cost less than Bt2 billion, he said, pointing out that Mae Wong Dam’s storage capacity would be just 200-250 million cubic metres and cost Bt13 billion.

Other activists, including Thai-Water Partnership’s chairman Hannarong Yaowalers and Srisuwan Janya from the Stop Global Warming Association, also showed up yesterday morning to back Sasin’s move against the project.

Hannarong said if the EHIA was approved and the project went ahead, it would open the door for the government to propose more dam projects in national park zones, which would be detrimental to the environment.

He said the foundation’s proposal of digging ponds was far better as it would respond to the more to the needs of local communities than the Mae Wong Dam, which he said would mostly focus on supplying water for industry.

Water Resources Department chief Jatuporn Buruphat said the alternative proposal was similar to the department’s plan to help local people have access to water. He said he would review the proposal and consider it if it appears to benefit water management and locals.

The Office of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy and Planning, meanwhile, will submit the EHIA report to the Independent Commission on Environment and Health today for consideration.

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