Fishing after opening the dam gates
Areal photo of the Mun River
Mun River is the largest tributary of the Mekong River and provides fish,
vegetables and water for millions of people in northeastern Thailand.
The 136 MW Pak Mun Dam, which was completed in 1994, was built by the
Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand with US$24 million in financing
from the World Bank. From the outset, the project was highly controversial
due to the predicted impacts on the rich and productive fisheries of the
Mun River. Between 1990 and 1997, there was intense opposition to the
dam by thousands of people living in local communities along the Mun River.
As a direct result of the dam,
more than 20,000 people have been affected by drastic reductions in fish
populations upstream of the dam site, and other changes to their livelihoods.
The dam has blocked the migration of fish, and a fish ladder, promoted
by the World Bank's fisheries experts as a mitigation measure, has proved
Pak Mun villagers and the Assembly
of the Poor, the largest peoples organization in Thailand, are demanding
that the Pak Mun Dam be decommissioned and the river restored. On March
23, 1999, more than 5,000 villagers occupied the Pak Mun dam site and
established Ban Mae Mun Man Yuen No 1, the "Long-lasting Mun River
Village No 1". They say they will fight until the gates are permanently
opened and the fisheries of the Mun River are restored.
In a victory for villagers, the
Thai government agreed to open the dam gates in June 2001 while studies
were conducted on fisheries, social impacts and the contribution of the
dam to Thailand's electricity supply. These studies, completed by Ubon
Ratchathani University, recommended opening the dam gates for five years.
However, the Thai government rejected this recommendation and instead
decided to close the gates for eight months each year. The gates were
shut in November 2002 and have been opened for only four months per year