Communities Urge Thai Prime Minister to Cancel Xayaburi Dam on the Mekong
Bangkok, Thailand: Today at 1pm representatives from Mekong communities in North and Northeast Thailand will submit a letter to the Thai Prime Minister asking him to cancel the plan to purchase electricity from the Xayaburi Dam project planned for the mainstream Mekong River in northern Laos.
The letter is signed by community groups representing about 24,000 people in five provinces along the Mekong River. Community representatives will personally present the letter to Mr. Satit Wongnongtaey, Minister for the Office of the Prime Minister. They will also meet with the Senate Sub-Committee on Mekong Development, and the Parliament Committee on Public Participation. Another letter will be submitted by 50 Thai civil society organizations, and the Thai People's Network for the Mekong, also asking the Prime Minister to cancel the plan to buy electricity from Xayaburi Dam.
The Xayaburi Dam would be the first dam to be built on the lower Mekong mainstream, devastating fish populations upon which millions depend. The dam is being proposed by Thai company Ch. Karnchang and all of the power generated would be sold to EGAT, the Thai electric utility.
The letter states that "Blocked fish migration routes is one of the most devastating impacts that we are concerned about, as well as the destruction of ecosystems and natural resources, upon which riverine communities depend for their livelihoods. As Thailand is the buyer of this energy, the Thai public has the right to be informed and participate in its decision-making."
Niwat Roykaew from the Chiang Khong Conservation Group said "Communities in Northern Thailand have been suffering the impacts of China's Upper Mekong dams for over a decade, and do not want Thailand to be responsible for building more dams on the Mekong. We hope the Prime Minister will ensure that Thailand does not buy electricity from this destructive project."
Text of the letter: (translation)
9 September 2010
Subject: Demand for the cancellation of the Xayaburi dam project on the Mekong River
To: The Prime Minister of Thailand
According to the National Energy Policy Board's meeting held on 12 March 2010, which was chaired by the Prime Minister, the board agreed to a draft MOU for an electricity purchase of 1,220 MW from the Xayaburi dam project and appointed EGAT to sign the initial purchasing agreement with the dam's investor, Ch. Karnchang.
Communities along the Mekong River, who endorse this letter, have monitored the planned Mekong dams, including those in the upper reaches of China, and those proposed for the lower basin in Laos, along the Thai-Lao border, and in Cambodia.
Experience has shown that after the construction of the first dam on the Mekong in China in 1993, the ecosystem of the Mekong has drastically changed. The drought and Mekong water level crisis, which occurred during the last dry season in particular, is believed by local communities to have occurred in part because of the dams in China.
However, the problems regarding the Mekong River and the suffering of riverine communities has yet to be systematically solved.
The Thai government's plan to purchase energy from the Xayaburi dam on the Mekong, signifies support for more dams on the Mekong, which will worsen the crisis experienced by Mekong communities.
Hence, we would like to express our concern over the Xayaburi dam, especially in regards to the potential impacts the dam will have on society and the environment, within Laos, Thailand, and the entire ecosystem of the Mekong River basin.
The Xayaburi dam project is located on the mainstream of the Mekong River in Laos, approximently 200 km from the border of Thailand. The dam's social and environmental impacts will not only occur in Laos, but also in Thailand's north and northeastern regions.
Blocked fish migration routes is one of the most devastating impacts that we are concerned about, as well as the destruction of ecosystems and natural resources, of which riverine communities depend upon for their livelihoods. As Thailand is the buyer of this energy, the Thai public has the right to be informed and participate in its decision-making.
The decision of the government's has been only amongst the political and official state sector, which has ignored the participation of civil society and neglected to fully consider the negative transboundary impacts that would be caused to Thailand and other downstream countries.
We, the community network endorsing this letter, would like to request that the Prime Minister cancel plans to purchase electricity from the Xayaburi dam. This would not only protect Thailand's economic and social security, but also the rich resources of the Mekong. The culture of the Mekong's people would also be sustained.
Members of the Mekong community network which endorse this letter:
Chiang Khong Conservation Group
Mekong communities in Chaing Saen, Chaing Khong, and Wieng Kaen districts, Chiang Rai
Mekong's tributaries communities (Kok and Ing rivers), Chiang Rai
Mekong communities in Pak Chom district, Loei
Mekong's tributary communities (Songkram River), Nakorn Panom
Mekong community in Bung Kla sub-district, Nong Khai
Mekong community network, Ubon Ratchatani
Pianporn Deetes, Mekong Campaigner, International Rivers, +66 81 422 0111, firstname.lastname@example.org