Friday, April 24, 2009

STOP Kaeng Sua Ten Dam

At the community meeting in Don Chai village I asked the villagers what they considered a better alternative than the dam to problems like flooding in the rainy season and irrigation needs in the dry season. I was hoping they would elaborate on the alternative we read about in an article of a series of community-controlled small weirs. The villagers did not describe any alternatives and instead described the detrimental effects on fish species of a weir built by the government about 50 years ago. I got the feeling that the villagers saw no need for other alternatives for a dam because the issues raised by the government were false issues. Flooding is a natural thing, they said. People who have lived by rivers know not to plant their gardens by the river in the rainy season. They also know not to build houses in floodplains. But developers in Thailand's central plain apparently do want to develop the riverbank and so upstream communities must suffer.

Still, I am suspicious. It is a complete misnomer to argue that dams can solve flooding problems. One of the villagers described it as "trying to put more water in a cup that is already full." The excess water in the impoundment runs off and causes just as much (or worse) flooding downstream. What is becoming clearer and clearer in my mind is that there is NO alternative because the problems cited by the government in need of solutions are false problems. They are made up in order to justify other, more sinister reasons like logging of the world's last remaining stands of golden teak and embezzling money from the project coffers. This is a project that even the World Bank backed out on because they saw too many social and environmental issues to justify funding. Point blank, there is no good reason to dam the Yom River.

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