Protest mounts over irrigation project

Protest mounts over irrigation project

Water chestnut growers work in a muddy field in Suphan Buri province to collect the nuts before it dries up. Water chestnuts from the farm are sold in bulk at 300 baht per 15 kilogrammes. (Photo by Pattarapong Chatpattarasill)
Water chestnut growers work in a muddy field in Suphan Buri province to collect the nuts before it dries up. Water chestnuts from the farm are sold in bulk at 300 baht per 15 kilogrammes. (Photo by Pattarapong Chatpattarasill)

A Department of Royal Irrigation project to build water sluice gates over the Loei River could cause heavy flooding during the rainy season, villagers in Loei warned Thursday.

Soralak Kaewsa, head of Ban Klang village in Chiangkhan district, accompanied by 10 other villagers, said locals were unhappy with the Sri Song Luck water sluice gate project as the department had told them little about it. They lodged a protest at the department Thursday.

They were uncomfortable about it as they were uncertain how the project would affect them despite assurances from irrigation officials. She said officials came to explain the project is part of the agricultural zone development in the lower Loei River, intended to reserve some water for agriculture and allow farmers to plant rice twice a year.

They also told villagers there would be no floods as the department has put in place steps for water management.

Five water sluice gates will be constructed along the river to control the water flow which runs to the Mekong River.

However, locals were concerned the sluice gates would lift the level of water during the rainy season and cause flooding in an area where inundation is already an annual problem.

"The sluice gates will make the level of water higher. We want the department to stop the project. We came here hoping the department might stop the project if the locals don't want it," she said, adding over 1,200 families would be affected by the project.

Thanar Suwattana, the department's spokesman, insisted the agency had no plans to stop the project. He said the majority of people in the district have accepted the project because it will help extend the irrigation system to over 50,000 rai of farmland. But the department is willing to create better understanding with those opposed to it.


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