Target: Thailand’s Royal Irrigation Department
Goal: Suspend approval of dam construction until proper measures are undertaken to ensure wildlife and ecological impacts are duly considered.
In the near future, a portion of Thailand’s Mae Wong National Park may literally never again see the light of day. Home to the Asian elephant, tigers and countless other animal species, this habitat stands to be flooded as part of a dam project to create a reservoir providing irrigation to local communities.
A consulting company commissioned by the dam’s developer (Royal Irrigation Department), has been accused of conducting hasty studies to determine environmental impact and potential economic benefits. Their results will be submitted to the National Environment Board in July; more thorough consideration of the positive and negative effects of dam construction must be completed before any such project can be approved.
The Royal Irrigation Department claims the dam will provide a stable irrigation system for local farmers, increasing crop output, household income and ultimately, quality of life. However, the chairman of Thai-Water Partnership, indicated that the amount of water held by the reservoir would not be nearly enough to irrigate an area as large as the RID claims. Neither mentioned the quality of life impact on the living ecosystem of Mae Wong Forest that lays in the balance.
A spokesman for the Seub Nakhasathien Foundation, a Thai forest conservation group, reported that the consulting company spent less than a year conducting research regarding the ecological repercussions for Mae Wong Forest. The report merely gave species population numbers and made no inquiry into measures needed to ensure minimal impact on native wildlife and forest ecology.
With almost three hundred distinct species named in the report and a staggering 700,000 trees that would have to be cut, it would be completely unacceptable for construction to move forward without due consideration of the permanent impact on such a rich habitat. The official who headed the study even admitted that not enough time was given to the investigation and that “it was impossible to conduct the field study in the forest.” Instead, they relied on anecdotal reports from villagers and park rangers, not exactly a thorough methodology.
In 1986, hasty dam construction led to massive wildlife deaths in the Surat Thani province. In this case, is already known that at a bare minimum, ecosystems will be forever destroyed, hundreds of animal species left to find new ways to survive and vast acres of forest cut down for the sake of providing increased irrigation capabilities. If this in itself is not enough to prevent dam construction, at the very least, more thorough studies are needed to adequately assess the positive and negative impacts of creating this reservoir.
Dear Royal Irrigation Department,
I am greatly concerned about the hasty process by which the potential dam in Mae Wong Forest is being considered. As I am sure you know, in 1986, hurried dam construction resulted in the loss of massive amounts of wildlife when no measures were taken to provide for wildlife evacuation. Such tragedies happen, but it is your department’s obligation, and your duty as a human sharing this earth with other living species, to ensure that such tragic history does not repeat itself.
The consulting firm you commissioned gathered data swiftly and without due diligence. Their report is very vague and does not provide nearly enough information on the biological diversity of Mae Wong Forest, nor consequences or protection measures to minimize ecological impact.
I understand the lure of increased irrigation capabilities is great, especially to aid poor farming communities. However, these benefits must not be pushed forward at the expense of the vast ecosystem that will be forever changed as a result of reservoir creation. Before any such project is approved, more studies must be completed to ensure that native wildlife and living forest ecosystems are given as much value as their human counterparts.
[Your Name Here]