Backlash over proposed dam construction threatening Thailand’s Dong Phaya Yen-Khao Yai forest

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Backlash over proposed dam construction threatening Thailand’s Dong Phaya Yen-Khao Yai forest

A contentious plan proposing the construction of seven dams in Nakhon Nayok and Prachin Buri has drawn serious backlash from conservationists. They argue that the project threatens to wreck 16,000 rai of land located within the Dong Phaya Yen-Khao Yai forest.

Ornyupa Sangkaman, the secretary-general of the Seub Nakhasathien Foundation, voiced her fears regarding the potential loss of numerous trees within the forest if the dam projects were to be greenlighted.

The area in question, spanning across Nakhon Nayok and Prachin Buri, is home to several national parks such as Khao Yai, Thap Lan, Ta Phraya and Pang Sida. Adding to its ecological significance is the Dong Yai Wildlife Sanctuary, which has been recognised as a national heritage since 2005.

In light of the proposed projects, doubts have been raised about the government’s ability to effectively manage water resources while handling difficult environmental issues with respect for the environment.

Sophanat Kingpha, a representative of the Sarika Tambon Administrative Organisation (TAO) and the leader of the Ban Khlong Maduea community, shared his experience of participating in environmental impact assessment (EIA) meetings with the Royal Irrigation Department. He stated that the consulting firm would photograph villagers who were against the project, but portray them as supporters in the resulting images.

Sophanat further claimed that the EIA report presented inflated figures, suggesting that 75% of residents were in favour of a Klong Maduea dam, with only 5% opposing it, reported Bangkok Post.

Dam construction

He explained that the sample for the survey included individuals from regions that would not be affected by the dam construction and that a number of those who voted in favour were set to benefit from the project.

“It’s not fair to us. We are in danger of losing our properties, our homes, our farmland, and our forests.”

Sophanat pointed out that when residents filed a complaint with the National Human Rights Commission, they were asked to provide extensive evidence to back their claims.

The forest that is under threat is home to protected trees, such as the golden jasmine tree. Sophanat questioned the feasibility of the project pointing out that the Klong Maduea watercourse does not have water all year long.

“So, where will the dam with an 80-metre-tall crest get water to fill it all year round from, water needed to push out saltwater intrusion?”

Sophanat expressed his scepticism about the value of the project against its budget.

Others who have expressed opposition to the dam projects include Ratana Srivorakul from the Prachinburi Organic Farming Network, Thap Lan Friends Group coordinator Chandranon Chayaninsivakul and Bang Pakong River Basin Network coordinator Kan Tattiyakul. They have raised concerns that the project while supplying water to factories, could potentially trigger an environmental catastrophe.