eng homeabout usmekong riversalween rivermun riverthai baan researchpublication

Thai plan threatens Mekong

ABC   7 Aug 08  http://www.radioaustralia.net.au/programguide/stories/200808/s2327081.htm

The Thai government has revived controversial plans to divert water from tributaries of the Mekong river to help agricultural production in the drought affected north east of the kingdom.

But conservationists are concerned the ambitious projects threaten the health of the river system and thousands of down stream villagers whose daily lives revolve around one of Southeast Asia's major waterways, as

Presenter: Claudette Werden Speakers: Dr Philip Hirsch, Australian Mekong Resource Centre; Jeremy Bird, CEO Mekong River Commision; Pianporn Deetes, Living Rivers Siam

WERDEN: The Mekong is one of the world's largest and longest rivers. >From the Tibetan Plateau, it runs through China's Yunnan province, Burma, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. Millions of people depend on the river and its tributaries for food, water and transport. Water flows along the Mekong have already been affected by China's construction of hydro dams.

For the past 20 years, Thailand has come up with no less than eight water diversion projects ..... at least two affect the neighbouring countries of Burma and Laos. Critics including Dr Philip Hirsch from the Australian Mekong Resource Centre say the government's rush to revive the projects is a political ploy.

HIRSCH: What's important to understand at the political level here is to understand is that the north and northeast of Thailand is and always has been the poorest region of Thailand, the driest region of Thailand and there's a certain pork barrelling aspect here of securing votes in northeastern Thailand by promising to green the northeast, just as the army used to say when it was looking at a similar type of scheme some twenty years ago.

WERDEN : Pie Deetes from the Thailand based environmental NGO Living River Siam says the government has yet to consult with communities who'll be directly affected if the water diversions go ahead. She's concerned those who stand to benefit are not local farmers by large agribusinesses who are more interested in growing crops for biofuel.

PIE: These water diversions are not for small scale farmers but is to support the large scale farm that's not owned by the community but by the companies and large scale farmers they're trying to promote energy crop its not for rice or food.

WERDEN :Despite the years of talking no diversions from neighbouring countries or of the Mekong have yet taken place, the Thai government has though spent big on the construction of at least two large dams and thats got conservationists worried. But Jeremy Bird, ceo of the Vientienne based Mekong River Commission, says the resurgence of interest is as a result of the current global food crisis and need for food security. The MRC is the body tasked with managing development along the river, and Mr Bird says no project can proceed without an environmental assessment and neighbouring government approval.

BIRD: Certainly some of those concerns from downstream countries about the impact of diversion of water on dry salinity in the delta area and particularly on the availability of irrigation water in the delta area and on the flow situation in the dry season which is very important for the fisheries, so those issues will be discussed during this consultation process but also in the medium turn we're going to see a situation where as a result of construction of dams upstream in China, there will be some significant increases in dry season flows in the Mekong which actually then might facilitate Thailand taking water from the river because then there'll be more water available during the dry season.


สมาคมแม่น้ำเพื่อชีวิต   138/1 หมู่ 4 ต.สุเทพ อ.เมือง จ.เชียงใหม่   50200
Living River Siam Association  138 Moo 4, Suthep, Muang, Chiang Mai, 50200   Thailand
Tel. & Fax.: (66)-       E-mail : admin@livingriversiam.org