Dam benefits doubted
Government faces call to review the
Anchalee Kongrut , Bangkok post 27 Aug 2001
and non-governmental organisations sceptical about the benefits of dams
are calling on the government to reconsider whether they actually produce
Chainarong Sretthachau, director of the NGO Southeast East Asia Rivers
Network (Searin), said the government would be asked to appoint an
independent body to review the social and economic impact of dams, and
More than 40 large dams, each costing more than a billion baht, have been
built in Thailand over the past three decades.
This was in addition to thousands of weirs and small dams, Mr Chainarong
A national council should be set up to approve new projects instead of
leaving the decision to state agencies which wanted to build them, he
Thavivongse Sriburi, associate professor of hydrological engineering at
Chulalongkorn University, said many dam projects were initiated by state
agencies solely to get budgetary support from the state and to show they
were doing something.
The country's irrigation system, built at a cost of more than 50 billion
baht of taxpayer money, could deliver less than 50% of its real capacity.
Academics and NGOs argue many large dams have a life span of only another
10 years or so.
They feel that the country must prepare to cope with this.
They are campaigning for the decommissioning of some of the dams that they
see as having a severe environmental impact.
These included the Pak Moon, Rasi Salai and Bang Pakong dams.
Operations at the three dams have been temporarily suspended without any
severe impact on local communities, they say.
If the Pak Moon dam was permanently decommissioned, the production cost of
electricity would rise by only 0.6 satang per kilowatt/hour, according to
Prof S Parasuraman, formerly of the World Commission on Dams, an
independent agency giving independent reviews on 125 dams worldwide
including Pak Moon, said the decision-making process for dams should
include local communities which would be directly affected.
The WCD had proposed guidelines that championed pre-evaluation of the real
need for dams and assessment of alternatives before making a commitment.
Three years ago, the Namibian government adopted an alternative assessment
which allowed it to drop a dam project and use natural wetland that
delivered equal flood control capacity.
The Netherlands, Britain, Sweden, Switzerland, Sri Lanka, Brazil and
Pakistan had taken heed of the WCD's guidelines.
These countries had started evaluating alternative options before making a
decision to build a dam, Prof Parasuraman said.