You can’t keep the bad men (and woman) down…

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2012 Feb 16
Govt to build big dam on seismic fault

Building a big dam on an active earthquake fault. Isn’t that plain crazy?

Destroying more than 60,000 rai of lush forest cover which includes the country’s last golden teak reserves, in order to prevent floods when deforestation actually causes flooding. Isn’t that plain silly?

No matter what we think, the Yingluck administration has its mind set on building the environmentally destructive Kaeng Sua Ten dam in Phrae province.

Actually, all governments in the past two decades have wanted to do the exact same thing. Obviously, for the many people involved, the teak concessions and the dam commissions were too tempting to resist.

But fierce resistance from the Sa-iab villagers in Phrae’s Song district and environmental groups forced them to back down every time.

The truth is that there are other ways to mitigate flooding in the Yom valley. The villagers’ proposals are in tune with those from Naresuan University _ conserve the forests, build small dykes and reservoirs along the Yom’s tributaries, dredge local canals and swamps, get rid of barriers to water runoff, and readjust housing to take into account seasonal flooding.

How will the government refute all this? With untruths _ the same way it did with last year’s flood?

Building the Kaeng Sua Ten dam is a mad idea. Even crazier would be to think the villagers will take it lying down, that’s for sure.

2012 Jan 29 Living in the ugly shadow of the kaeng sua ten dam

”I have no idea when this will end. I’m exhausted but I will not give up opposing it,” Mr Seng said.

2012 Jan 11 Local people oppose dam projects

The Yom River People’s Network … object to the building of two planned dams…

The cabinet had used the recent flood crisis to justify the government’s plans to build the controversial Kaeng Sua Ten dam in Phrae and Mae Wong Dam in Uthai Thani…

The … two dam construction projects would … not be able to prevent floods as expected…

The recent great flood showed that the country’s existing 40 large dams and more than 2,000 small dams had failed to prevent flooding…

The two planned dams have a combined storage capacity of only two million cubic metres and could not prevent a recurrence of the flood, said [the group’s representative] Mr. Wutthichai [Srikampha].

To effectively prevent flooding in the future, the government should
1. rehabilitate watershed forests…
2. develop small and medium reservoirs along 77 branches of the Yom River, which could in total retain three times the volume of the planned Kaeng Sua Ten dam…
3. a one tambon, one water source programme should be also introduced so that water resources can be effectively managed to prevent future floods rather than building large dams, he said.

The cabinet on Tuesday approved issuing of four financial decrees relating to… flood prevention.

2007 Jan 22 Dreams of national unity

What has the post-coup government been doing “to restore normalcy and to create unity as soon as possible”? It has taken the subsidy away from rice which has brought the price crashing down. It has told the poor, wait please we’ll get round to you some time. It has sent a contingent of over 13,000 troops to police political activity, so people have a regular reminder of the bad old days a quarter of a century ago. It wants to bring back hopeless and hated projects like the Kaeng Sua Ten dam.

2005 Sep 5 Another dam government

The plan to build a dam at Kaeng Sua Ten has also been revived to relieve flooding in the urban areas along the lower Yom river… They recast the dam as a flood relief scheme to appeal to embattled urban communities along the lower Yom River – even though it had never been planned for flood relief, and a glimpse at a contour map showed it would not contribute much at all.

The revival of these bad projects and the invention of new ones which are as bad or worse is very revealing. The old dam coalition is still alive and well… By the middle of the Thaksin government’s first term, irrigation officials understood that this government was likely to be sympathetic. It began to revive projects like Kaeng Sua Ten and Phong Khun Petch. Every year in the flood season, local politicians tried to whip up local support for these projects. This year, water has misbehaved spectacularly… The Chiang Mai flood and the Eastern Seaboard drought have combined to create a sense of crisis and a tendency to panic.

2002 Apr 1 The hot, hot season

The new forestry chief announced he supports dams like Kaeng Sua Ten on the Yom river, because it will prevent downstream flooding. The project has been a focus of controversy for over a decade. Local residents want to protect their homes and a rare teak forest. Dam advocates claim the forest no longer exists. Study after study has shown the project makes no economic sense except for a coalition of land speculators, construction contractors, and commission-seekers.

1999 Sep 30 How much is a tree worth?

The work is a team effort between Thai and international academics, headed by Dr Khunying Suthawan Sathirathai. It focuses on the Kaeng Sua Ten dam project in the Mae Yom National Park in Phrae. It combines the sweat of field research and the sophistication of econometric modelling. And the results are both shocking and hopeful.

Cutting down forests to build dams might have made sense some decades ago when there were lots of forest. But cutting down a forest like Mae Yom now is an act of vandalism on a global scale. This research challenges the cost-benefit accounting which enables such vandalism to continue.

1999 Jan 7 Another dam, another dollar

Officials have met growing opposition to such projects by becoming more politically aggressive – mob against mob. A year ago, officials, NGOs and academics met to exchange technical information reviewing another dam project (Kaeng Sua Ten). Although it was termed a “technical meeting”, officials turned it into a political confrontation. They packed the meeting with local politicians and dam supporters. Speeches were made. No technical discussion was held.

[T]he official mind does not know how to respond to this challenge. Rather, it tends to compound its record of bad faith by juggling the figures, hiding information, resisting scrutiny, and portraying opponents as trouble-makers, rebels and unreformed communists. More and more too, it now brings out the mob kharachakan, the official mob, to enforce its will.

1998 Nov 2 On the career of Montree Pongpanit: lest we forget

Chang Noi has several times heard Montree nominated as candidate for the title of “the worst man in Thailand”.

Montree also backed the construction of the Kaeng Sua Ten dam. Opponents claimed the project offered more benefits to contractors and bribe-takers than to the farmers, and would destroy the nation’s last remaining forest of golden teak. Montree countered that this teak forest simply did not exist. Newspapers published photos to disprove him.

1998 Jan 21 Kaeng Sua Ten dam is not worth the investment

The Kaeng Sua Ten dam project does not pay.

The project has been attacked because of the earthquake risks, the disruption of local communities, the threat to species, and the destruction of a unique golden teak forest. Yet the supporters of the project have shrugged off these attacks and kept the project alive. But now the project faces a new threat. Recalculations show it is simply not worth the investment. Economically, it’s a bad idea.

The TDRI’s recalculation, completed in July 1997, concludes: “The net benefits, estimated according to standard international procedures, are less than the costs. Hence this investment project should not be supported from the national budget.”

1997 Jul 31 Dam officials and dammed people

[D]o the risks and costs outweigh the benefits. In the case of Kaeng Sua Ten, the recent Chula study was quite clear that they do. Invaluable forest will be lost, species destroyed, fisheries disrupted. The site is “too valuable a biological area to allow a dam to destroy it”. The priorities have been reversed. The environmental threat is too great. If we need the irrigation, we will have to do it in some other way.

The Irrigation Department, which owns the project, finds this very frustrating. The Department is good at building dams for irrigating rice. Its whole history is bound up with this activity. Kaeng Sua Ten will irrigate a lot of rice. “Our duty is to provide water”, a Department official said in exasperation at a recent meeting, “our job is not about protecting the environment”.

Khon Kaen University has proposed an alternative plan with 5,000 small-scale weirs rather than one big dam. It costs a fraction of the dam scheme, does not threaten the ecology, and provides some irrigation, though less than the dam. But the Irrigation Department is not interested. Such a scheme, said a Department official, “is not our kind of work”.

1997 Apr 23 Assembly of the Poor: down to the difficult details

The third issue involves five proposed new dams (including Kaeng Sua Ten). These projects are still at the planning stage. Feasibility and environmental impact studies are still under way. But the past record is not good. Government tends to railroad such projects through. Environmental studies have been ignored. There is no established process for public hearings.

Besides, once such projects are announced, villages in the area are attacked by “planning blight”. Government offices refuse to provide electricity, water connections, roads, land deeds, house registrations. Officials urge villagers to sell their land to the government straight away, rather than wrestling for compensation. Under these pressures, communities can wither away.

1996 Dec 10 Kaeng Sua Ten: big dam issue

The golden teak forest is old, extensive, and priceless as a natural laboratory of biodiversity. Why destroy something which is totally unique and irreplaceable.

The attempt to railroad the project is creating its own opposition within officialdom, among groups which question the top-down steamroller approach. The Forestry Department sponsored an environmental study which challenges the bona fides of those supporting the project. The National Parks Department is grumbling about the decision to site the dam in one of its sanctuaries. The Ministry of Interior’s Damrong Rajanupharp Institute has accused irrigation officials of doctoring information about the dam. The Office of Environmental Policy and Planning and the National Environment Board have both opposed the dam and the attempts to ignore the 1992 Environment Act.

Let nothing stand in the way of the grifters and grafters and corruption. Only the good die young.

About jfl

A 66 year-old American male living in Chiangrai, Thailand
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