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Pak Mun Dam

The Pak Mun Dam is a hydroelectric dam located near the mouth of the Mun River that runs through Ubon Rachathani, a northeastern province of Thailand. Its target capacity of power generation was 136 megawatts (MW), which is enough to supply powers for 5 large department stores. Due to insufficient water, however, the actual output of the dam has been less than half of its expected capacity.

Though it has been more than 10 years since the completion of the dam, the plight of the people affected by the dam has continued, or even worsened. The rapids in the river, where the migratory fish used to lay their eggs, were destroyed by the construction of the dam. A fish ladder had been installed, and it was supposed to help the migratory fish in the region, but the villagers criticize it as being completely ineffective. Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT) has tried to address the issue by releasing some shrimp, but the results have been a far cry from recovering the fishery resources that the villagers have lost. The original number of household to be displaced for the dam was originally said to be 262 families, but in reality, 912 households have already been relocated, 780 of which have lost all or parts of their land. In addition, there are more then 2500 families who are protesting against the damage to their fisheries.

In 1991, the Board of Directors of the World Bank approved the loan to the Pak Mun Dam project. At the board meeting, it is said that the board member from Japan expressed his strong support for the project, whereas the US, who had conducted their own independent environmental impact assessment, Germany and Australia voted against and Canada abstained. In addition, the World Bank has expressed pride for minimizing the damage; the original plans for the Pak Mun Dam would have relocated some 25,000 people, but due to the consideration of social and environmental factors by the Bank, this was avoided.

The people's protest against the dam has continued for more than 10 years, and they are still conducting mass demonstrations of 3000 people. Having been criticized by the government and urban residents for demanding money, in late 1999 the protestors changed their demand to the decommissioning of the dam. By doing so, they are trying to show that they are fighting for life; not simply monetary compensation.

In June 2001, the flood gates of the dam were temporarily opened after an order from the Thai government. This was a great, though temporary triumph, for the villagers. Since the opening of the gates, there has been a return of many fish. Villagers as well as academics began documenting the changes (and recovery) of the river. It was just decided in October 2002, that the gates would again be closed, and would be open for only 4 months of the year.

Villagers are very dissatisfied with the recent decision, and continue their protest. There have been incidences of violence against villagers by authorities, and tensions remain high.

To learn more on Pak Mun Dam, see the websites below;

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