Salween Basin Villagers’ Letters to Thai Minister of Agriculture re: Water Diversion Scheme from the Salween to Chao Praya Basin

(Translation from Thai)

The People’s Network of Salween River Basin
The Salween River Basin Restoration and Development Association
Mae Hong Son 58000

7 August 2019

Subject: Opposition to water diversion scheme to increase water supply in the Bhumibol Dam

Dear Minister of Agriculture and Cooperatives,

In pursuance to the Royal Irrigation Department’s final orientation meeting on the survey and design of the project to increase water storage in the Bhumibol Dam, aka “The Water Diversion Project” in Mae Hong Son and Tak today at the District Office of Sob Moei, Mae Hong Son, the People’s Network of Yuam, Ngao, Moei and Salween River Basins which has been collaborating with local communities to preserve and promote participatory natural resource management for over 20 years is alarmed by the Water Diversion Project, particularly its social and environmental impacts as follows;
The Water Diversion Project is structurally composed of the Yuam River Dam, the coffer dam, the water tunnel, which is slated to cause grave and widespread environmental impacts, particularly the dam wall built across the Yuam River at 68.50 meters above sea level and its crest length at 180 meters. The dam will rattle the ecosystem in the Yuam and Ngao Rivers, a few rivers in Thailand which still run through lush and pristine forests with minimal contact of humans. The fragile rivers and wetlands, yet highly valuable, should be preserved, rather than destroyed.

Core to the Project is the construction of concrete water induction tunnel with 8.30 meters in diameter and 61.79 kilometers long. It has been designed to penetrate through mountains and forests from Ban Sob Nhao, Sob Moei District, Mae Hong Son to Mae Ngud Creek, Tambon Na Khor Rua, Chiang Mai. The excavation will be made through a few remaining pristine forests in the North of Thailand where most of them are classified 1A watershed. The lush forests lie in between the three provinces, Mae Hong Son, Chiang Mai and Tak.
People are gravely concerned about the construction of tunnels through the forests and its widespread and sheer impacts on the environment and health of the local communities.

In addition, the construction of such gigantic tunnels warrants waste disposal sites, and six of them have been designated for the purpose. People are concerned by the soil and rock debris and other wastes from the excavation which could amount to 8,759,870 cubic meters and the impacts on the 1A watershed areas along the entire route of the tunnels It has prompted them to ask about the potential impacts and the mitigation plans.

Most importantly, the Water Diversion Project obviously lacks public participation. No effort has been made to keep the public sufficiently informed while the project’s documents simply mention the benefits of the Project while foregoing its negative impacts on the forests, the rivers, the environment and the livelihood of local communities or the impacts on the Thai people who are supposed to own such invaluable natural resources. The presentations and handouts have not been made available in a language understood by the local stakeholders. No effort has been made to keep local people who stand to bear the impacts sufficiently informed and it has deprived them of the chance to make their voice heard.

An inter-basin diversion scheme, the Project is designed to divert water from the Salween River Basin to the Chao Phraya River Basin. In other word, water supply in the Salween River Basin, an international river on which various ethnic groups of people inside and outside Thailand depend, will be relocated and it may have led to massive and unbearable social impacts to the people.

We, the people who have been dwelling in the forests and deeply care for our forests which are home to us and have been preserved by our forebearers, are therefore opposed to the Project and demand that it be immediately scrapped in order to prevent any damage to our natural resources and in order to preserve such natural heritages for our children.

Thank you very much.
Yours sincerely,
The People’s Network of Salween River Basin

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