Every time the provinces in the Yom River basin are severely flooded as a result of run-off flowing down from the North or are ravaged by drought, the first thing the people in government usually do is blame the lack of a dam such as the controversial Kaeng Sua Ten project.
They say this dam would store excess water in order to mitigate the problem of flooding and ensure there is sufficient water for irrigation purposes during the dry season.
Hence, it came as no surprise at all that the Kaeng Sua Ten dam project was revived and actively pushed by Deputy Prime Minister Kittiratt Na-Ranong and Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister Theera Wongsamut after Sukhothai municipality was flooded as a result of northern run-off last week.
And as usual, civil society and environmental groups have voiced fierce protests against the project, not to mention the Sa-iab locals in Phrae province who will fight to the death to protect their village homes from being submerged if the dam is built.
Due to this stout resistance, the controversy over the Kaeng Sua Ten dam has dragged on for more than two decades without any sign of it ever being harmoniously resolved to the satisfaction of all stakeholders.
Meanwhile, the people in the Yom River basin, especially in low-lying areas, continue to suffer the twin scourges of flood and drought which strike with a vengeance on a yearly basis, seemingly alternately.
Is there no alternative to the Kaeng Sua Ten dam? There is one at least _ and that is the building of a network of inter-connected reservoirs to store water. This approach has been recommended by His Majesty the King and civil society groups for quite some time. The only problem is that the suggestion has always been ignored by various governments _ past to present.
Royol Chitradol, head of the government's water situation assessment and management sub-committee, recently proposed that the government should abandon the Kaeng Sua Ten dam and consider the alternative recommended by the King which, he said, would help ease the conflict with the people in Sa-iab and civil society groups. However, Mr Royol said he had yet to consult with the other decision makers in the Water and Flood Management Committee headed by Plodprasop Suraswadi.
Although a lone voice in the government for now, Mr Royol's proposal for the government to drop the Kaeng Sua Ten project and explore other options should be seriously considered by the government with, of course, the active participation of the other stakeholders such as civil society groups and representatives of the Sa-iab villagers.
The government should accept the fact that the Kaeng Sua Ten project is economically and environmentally unsound.
This verdict is not just hearsay but has been confirmed by studies conducted by the Thailand Development Research Institute, the Good Governance for Social Development and the Environment Institute and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation.
The controversy over the dam has dragged on for far too long and has drained the energy of both the project's supporters and opponents _ all at the expense of the people living downstream of the Yom River such as the residents of Sukhothai who are struggling to cope with the flood problem there.
It is about time that the Yingluck government ditched the Kaeng Sua Ten dam and explored other alternatives to ease the hardships of everyone concerned.