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PM urged to address woes of villagers

Dam projects affect Northeasterners

Anchalee Kongrut and Sanoh Worarak
Bangkok Post, November 5, 1999

The prime minister has been urged by 28 international organisations to address the plight of Northeastern villagers affected by dam projects.

Among those affected are two groups of villagers in Si Sa Ket, one of which has lost its land and the other fears the same fate.

About 300 villagers of the first group built a makeshift village on the rim of the Rasi Salai reservoir to demand the government compensate quickly those affected and determine the environmental damage from dam project.

They represent nearly 2,000 people who claim to have been affected by the dam construction across the Moon river in 1994. They have occupied the area at the dam since April this year.

But the Department of Energy Development and Promotion, the developer, has begun to fill the reservoir and the makeshift village and crops have been engulfed.

After the department warned the protesters they would have to go as the water level rose, they tried to protect their settlement with a sandbag dyke.

Meanwhile, about 2,000 villagers from five districts have since Tuesday held a mass protest at Hua Na dam in tambon Nong Kaew, Kanthararom district. They fear they would lose their farmland once dam operations begin in two years.

They have demanded the department submit an environmental impact assessment to ensure their farmland would not be affected.

Prasithiporn Karn-ornsri, an adviser to the Forum of the Poor, said the Hua Na dam would drown at least 50,000 rai of farmland.

However, farm owners have not been compensated because they had no official land documents to prove ownership.

Mr Prasithiporn said these villagers would face the same fate as those at the Rasi Salai dam.

Construction of the dam began in 1992. Once finished, it could hold 115.62 million cu m to irrigate 154,000 rai of farmland.

The protesters accuse department of failing to conduct an assessment in line with the 1992 Environment Act which requires a study of dam projects with a capacity of more than 100 million cu m.

Itthi Bijayendrayodhin, the department director, said Hua Na was not a dam but a weir and was therefore not subject to the assessment requirement. However, a study would be carried out and results could be expected by early next year.

Until then, the Hua Na project would not begin operations, he said.


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