By WASU VIPOOSANAPAT
THAI CITIZENS living along the Mekong River will finally get their voices heard in relation to Laos' Don Sahong dam project - in the Siphandon area - from as early as next month.
This move, via national consultation forums, comes in response to controversy over many dams built on the river now affecting people in many states, especially those in downstream areas.
“We will listen to local people’s opinions,” Chaiporn Siripornpibul said as representative of the Thai National Mekong Committee and inspector for Thailand’s Natural Resources and Environment Ministry.
Chaiporn said the consultation process would take place in all eight provinces along the Mekong as locals stand to face the biggest impact from dams built on the river. These are Chiang Rai, Loei, Nong Khai, Bueng Kan, Nakhon Phanom, Mukdahan, Amnat Charoen and Ubon Ratchathani.
Vietnam was the first to hold a national consultation on the Don Sahong Dam project, starting forums on the matter last month. Cambodia followed with forums that began mid-this-month.
In terms of Thailand, Chaiporn said the forums would discuss relevant issues such as fish migration and the river’s flow. He added that the forum would also study the Xayaburi Dam, since both projects have similar impacts.
The results of the process will later be collected in a technical review report and released officially in December.
Recommendations from the report will also be sent to the Mekong River Commission’s joint committee, so its members can further discuss potential impacts, risks and possible consequences of the Don Sahong project. Earlier, environmental groups in Thailand released a statement urging the government to organise national consultation forums at a time when prior consultations on the administration’s road map had started on July 25.
‘Work on Don Sahong should stop’
Chirasak Inthayot, a representative from Network of Thai People in Eight Mekong Provinces, said the dam could affect ecosystems where locals rely on fishing. He said forums to discuss the dam should be advertised in advance so locals get a chance to fully participate. Meanwhile, International Rivers’ campaign coordinator for Thailand, Pienporn Deetes, said an environmental impact assessment (EIA) should be conducted before the national consultation process begins. She said that EIA for transboundary aspects or further baseline studies should also be included in the technical review report so the prior consultation covers all areas of possible impact.
“The process and construction on the Don Sahong Dam should be halted until a transboundary EIA is carried out, and until all studies are completed,” she said.
In June, Laos said that it would undergo prior consultation, after strong pressure from Vietnam and Cambodia, which are downstream and would suffer from a drop in the flow of water, likely to affect fishing and agriculture.