National parks dept ‘objects’ to Mae Wong Dam

The Nation ฉบับวันที่ 20 พฤศจิกายน พ.ศ. 2557
JANJIRA PONGRAI,
WASU VIPOOSANAPAT
THE NATION
AMID A LACK of clarity over the controversial Mae Wong Dam’s Environmental Health Impact Assessment (EHIA) report, the Department of National Parks, Wild-life and Plant Conservation (DNP) has also officially objected to the dam.
Seub Nakhasathien Foundation secretary-general Sasin Chalermlarp revealed the move by DNP chief Nipon Chotibal.
The Independent Commission on Environment and Health, in a meeting yesterday to scrutinise the EHIA report, urged the DNP and the Royal Irrigation Department (RID) to work together on rechecking information for consistency and accuracy.
Sasin, who has been camping outside the Office of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy and Planning (ONEP) since early this week to protest against the dam, welcomed Nipon’s move as a good sign from the DNP, the owner of the area for the dam construction.
Somkiet Prayamwong Somkiat Prajamwong, director of the RID project management office, confirmed that Nipon’s statement was released yesterday. The statement warned that the dam construction at Mae Wong National Park should not go ahead because the EHIA report had ignored many vital facts on effective water management. The statement also said the park was one of the most abundant forests and was a likely candidate for World Heritage status from Unesco.
Somkiat explained that there were differences such as on the assessment forest value. “The information is very different from what was contained in the EHIA report prepared by a consulting firm hired by the Royal Irrigation Department. Hence they cannot conclude whether the project should go ahead or not,” he added.
Somkiat suggested that the two agencies set up a proper assessment procedure to ensure information consistency, and the commission should join in the setting up of this assessment.
He also said the RID would consider the feasibility of the Seub Nakhasathien Foundation’s alternative water-management proposal if it could help local communities avoid floods.
Before the committee’s meeting, Sasin and Seub Nakhasathien Foundation chairwoman Rataya Chantian had presented an alternative proposal to the seven-strong commission, chaired by ONEP secretary-general Kasemsan Jinnawaso.
Kasemsan told them that if the DNP’s new information about resources in the area were complete, the commission would consider it to amend the EHIA report. He also affirmed that the commission’s meeting yesterday afternoon would not make a final decision on the project because updated information from the RID was still awaited.
Dam unlikely
After the commission meeting, Kasemsan commented that the Mae Wong Dam was unlikely to be constructed because the richness of the ecosystem in the forest might be discovered later, giving more weight to the need to preserve the forest.
Anuphan Ittharatana, who sits in the commission, said he did not attend the meeting yesterday because he had another engagement. “But I believe this meeting will not make any final decision.”
He said the Mae Wong Dam project had both supporters and opponents and information from both sides would be carefully considered.
Sasin said his group would still serve as the “watchdog” to monitor the dam project if the EHIA report finally got approval. If the EHIA were approved, the group would urge the National Environment Board to consider the foundation’s alternative proposal that there is a better way for Thailand’s water management.
Meanwhile, a Kasetsart University expert on water resource engineering, Suwattana Chittaladakorn, said the EHIA report should not be considered any time soon. “It is better to wait for a new water-management plan by the RID and the Water Resources Department, which will be released in December.”
Meanwhile, a previously planned seminar scheduled for yesterday titled “Who Takes Advantage of Mae Wong’s EHIA?”, featuring environmental activists including Sasin, had to be cancelled after police said that the organisers, Thailand’s environmental journalists’ club, had not informed them in advance about the seminar, which could lead to political conflict.
This is not the first time that the authorities have called off anti-Mae Wong Dam movements. On Tuesday evening, a march led by a Kasetsart University students also had to be called off.

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