Mekong Utility Watch

Study planned for two dams

Piyaporn Wongruang
Bangkok Post
October 4, 2005


Thailand’s energy planners have dusted off plans for mainstream Mekong dams studied by Canadian firm Acres International in the early 1990s.

The Alternative Energy Development and Efficiency Department has dusted
off two hydro-power dam projects on the Lower Mekong river in search of

alternative sources of electricity. Adul Chaiaroon, director of the
Energy Development Office, said the department would seek a budget of
100 million baht to conduct a feasibility study for the Pamong and Ban
Koum dams on the Mekong river near Loei and Ubon Ratchathani provinces.

If found to be feasible and built, they will be the first dams on the
Lower Mekong river, which runs through Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and
Vietnam.

Mr Adul said the proposed dams were vital for the country’s energy system, which is under threat from rising oil prices.

“Water seems to be cheaper than oil [for electricity generation] at the
moment,” he said.

The department has hired Panya Consultants Co to conduct the preliminary
study for hydropower dam construction on the river. The firm has come up
with seven potential sites, including some near the Luang Phra Bang World
Heritage site.

However, the firm suggested the department go with Pamong and Ban Koum
first as the projects provide the highest economic returns with the least
impact.

According to the study, Ban Koum dam, costing about 100 billion baht,
will span over 460 metres across the Mekong with power generation of
about 2,000MW. It will inundate around 280 households.

The 90-billion-baht Pamong dam will span more than 300 metres across the
Mekong river. The dam will produce about 1,500MW of electricity and will
inundate nearly 500 households.

The proposed projects, however, have been opposed by environmentalists and sustainable energy advocates.

Witoon Permponsacharoen, an energy expert of Towards Ecological Recovery
and Regional Alliance, criticised the department for trying to revive the
old school of thought on dam building.

He said the dams had been initiated by Thailand National Mekong
Committee a long time ago. The projects, however, were later abandoned
as construction was almost impossible due to the massive social and
environmental impact.

The revived Pamong dam, he said, would lead to the relocation of thousands of families living by the Mekong river.

“There is nowhere in the world where mega-projects cause small impacts,” said Mr Witoon.

“In order to survive the energy crisis, the government should start with
fixing the country’s electricity management. The government should not
waste taxpayers’ money on the feasibility studies for those two dams.”

Sustainable energy advocate Chuenchom Sangarasri Greacen, of the Palang
Thai group, said the department’s move reflected the country’s poor energy management policy.

The department’s electricity development would eventually overlap with
other electricity producers, including the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand.

Categories: Mekong Utility Watch

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