Protesters up for Mae Wong fight

Protesters up for Mae Wong fight

Onep under fire over dam study examination

Environmental activists from the Seub Nakhasathien Foundation hold an activity to oppose the Nakhon Sawan-based Mae Wong Dam project at the Office of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy and Planning in September 2015. (Bangkok Post file photo)
Environmental activists from the Seub Nakhasathien Foundation hold an activity to oppose the Nakhon Sawan-based Mae Wong Dam project at the Office of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy and Planning in September 2015. (Bangkok Post file photo)

Anti-Mae Wong dam protesters will today converge on the Office of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy and Planning (Onep) to object to its decision to examine the project's health and environment impact assessment (EHIA) study.

Sasin Chalermlarp, chairman of the Seub Nakhasathien Foundation, who will lead the protest, said yesterday he was informed by sources of Onep's intention to assess the study for the dam in Nakhon Sawan.

"We will submit a letter to Onep, asking it why it intends to examine the EHIA given the fact that an initial decision was made that the dam would not be constructed," Mr Sasin said.

Mr Sasin said the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives and stakeholders held a meeting in May to discuss the issues surrounding the controversial dam, which opponents say would harm the environment.

The meeting agreed to find other alternatives to a dam, he said.

"I want to hear from Onep what it is thinking regarding the Mae Wong project.

"There is no need to consider the EHIA now the department has agreed to consider other alternatives first. Onep must answer our concerns," Mr Sasin added.

He said the May meeting looked at three options.

One was constructing the proposed dam, another was to scale down the dam size and the other was to look at alternatives to a dam to help deal with drought and flood problems in the province.

The Department of Royal Irrigation told the meeting that Lat Yao district in Nakhon Sawan is at risk of flooding due to barriers being along the river blocking water flow in the rainy season, Mr Sasin said.

Addressing the drought problem, the department explained the project could divert water to help farmers working 291,100 rai of farmland in the rainy season, but it would lose 12,000 rai of fertile forest in Mae Wong National Park.

A source from the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives said the meeting decided the Department of Royal Irrigation would study other possible ways of dealing with both flood and drought problem in Nakhon Sawan, instead of going ahead with the dam.

However, the department has not yet withdrawn the project's EHIA study, so the study will be looked at as a matter of course.

The Mae Wong Dam construction project stalled four years ago when Mr Sasin and other environmentalists staged a protest march in Sept 2013, that raised overwhelming public support against the dam.

A special committee was set up to study the proposals further, but nothing official has been decided.

The controversy was thrust back in the spotlight when Mr Sasin posted a message on his Facebook saying unhappily that he might celebrate the Seub Nakhasathien Foundation's anniversary at Onep today because he had heard the dam project's EHIA was on a list to be examined.

Mae Wong National Park is considered a vital part of the country's Western Forest Complex, which is considered the largest tiger habitat in the region.

The dam's opponents say it could destroy the habitat -- a World Heritage site -- which would be tragic since traces of tiger activity had been detected recently inside the park.

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