Dam alternative is better, cheaper, foundation says

Untitled5Bangkok Post ฉบับวันที่ 17 พฤศจิกายน พ.ศ. 2557
APINYA WIPATAYOTIN
The Seub Nakhasathien Foundation will today submit an alternative proposal to counter the government’s planned construction of the Mae Wong dam in Nakhon Sawan’s Lat Yao district, while a group of students demonstrated against the dam in front of a Bangkok art museum yesterday.
Sasin Chalermlarp, the foundation secretary-general, who launched a walking campaign against the Mae Wong dam last year, said the proposal will give the government’s review panel another option for Sakaekrang River basin water management aside from the dam.
Mr Sasin said instead of building the Mae Wong dam, digging ponds in paddy fields would both retain water for people in need while preserving pristine forest for wildlife.
The proposal comes ahead of a meeting on Wednesday of an expert panel to consider the dam’s Environment and Health Impact Assessment (EHIA) study.
Mr Sasin said digging ponds in agricultural zones in the Sakeakrang River basin would increase the river’s water storage capacity by around 205.6 million cubic metres and cost less than 2 billion baht. Meanwhile, the Mae Wong dam’s storage capacity would be between 200-250 million cu m and cost 13 billion baht.
“We have made a calculation based on 5% of plain area. But if the number goes to 10%, the water storage amount is larger than for the Mae Wong dam,” Mr Sasin said.
He cited a case in Ban Than Mayom in Sawang-Arom district in Uthai Thani province as a showcase of water management for a non-irrigation zone, saying villagers dug ponds in their community with a capacity of 1.7 million cubic metres, which is enough to plant rice twice a year.
With regard to the heavy floods in Lat Yao district in Nakhon Sawan, he said water from Mae Wong National Park had nothing to do with the flooding. Rather, the problem was caused by ineffective water management as poorly designed structures blocked waterways. Government officials, meanwhile, have tried to convey a message that there will be no flooding if the Mae Wong dam is built.
According to the foundation, the dam would consume more than 13,000 rai of pristine forest, a significant habitat for tigers ranging from the Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary. It said the dam has no effective capacity to control water during the rainy season and distribute water during the dry season.
Mr Sasin said the EHIA study has not mentioned the vital fact that the dam site will destroy a unique forest along the Rewa River, which is a significant water source for wildlife, especially tigers and deer.
“We are affirming our position that the EHIA report is not complete,” Mr Sasin said.
“It misses a significant point about the forest,” he said. “It is also clear that the claimed economic returns from the dam are over-exaggerated compared with the facts.”

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