Villagers protest Yuam River diversion project

Villagers protest Yuam River diversion project

Residents from 46 villages in Mae Hong Son and Chiang Mai petitioned the chairman of the National Environment Board (NEB) and Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon to scrap the planned diversion of Yuam River.

The petition was filed at Mae Hong Son's complaint centre in Sop Moei district.

Villagers living along the Yuam River in Mae Hong Son's Sop Moei district and Chiang Mai's Omkoi and Hot districts had previously protested the project when Gen Prawit -- whose agency approved the project's environmental impact assessment (EIA) -- inspected it.

According to the petition, the results of the EIA -- which was carried out by Naresuan University back in 2016 and approved by the Office of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy and Planning last year -- are doubted by academics and local residents as it was approved by the NEB without consulting local residents.

The residents said they have petitioned various state agencies -- including the Royal Irrigation Department, the Office of Natural Resources and Environment Policy and Planning, as well as the NEB -- multiple times to point out the irregularities in the EIA.

They claimed local residents weren't involved in the public hearings on the project, as the government didn't provide any interpreters for residents, many of whom do not speak Thai, according to the petition.

The petition said the water shortage across the Ping and Chao Phraya river basins should be addressed by diverting rivers which are closer to the areas. As local tribes who live in the area are heavily reliant on the river for sustenance, if the river diversion project goes through, they stand to lose everything -- including land, dwellings, agricultural lands and natural resources, the petition said.

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