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Chi River Basin Network Accelerates Resolving Dam Impacts for 14 Years

Photo: Luke Duggleby/HaRDstories
Photo: Luke Duggleby/HaRDstories

On June 15, 2022, a network of around 100 villagers from the Lower Chi River Basin in Roi Et and Yasothon provinces travelled to the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives in Bangkok to urge the responsible agencies to organise a committee meeting to resolve the impacts of dams on the Chi River which has affected with the way of life of the community for 14 years.

The villagers are part of a network of people affected by the construction of three dams in the Chi River Basin, namely the Yasothon-Phanom Phrai dam, Roi Et dam and That Noi dam. These dams are part of the Khong-Chi-Mun water management project in the Northeast region, which has built 14 dams in the Isan region even after three dams built in 2000 have been found to cause water levels to fluctuate and flood nearby community farmland ruining their rice crop. The dams have also changed the forest ecosystem which is an important source of food and biodiversity.

“Roi Et jasmine rice is very famous. Because the fragrant and quality jasmine rice is rice that is grown in season naturally. But since the dam came villagers are not able to follow water flow anymore because someone has taken control of the water. It depends on whether the dam is open or drained. Today, the villagers have to do secondary farming and off-season farming to earn money to buy rice to eat,” Chantra Chanthathong from Ban Don Kaeo, Bueng Ngam Subdistrict, Tha Khao Luang District, Roi Et Province reflects the problem. He lives between the Roi Et Dam and the Yasothon-Phanom Phrai Dam and has had to face continuous floods for many years.

Recently, the network has called for government agencies to pay compensation for the damages caused. It is estimated that more than four thousand people have been affected. Over the past 14 years, the community has called for problems to be solved and committees and subcommittees were set up to solve the issue but there is still no concrete solution to the problem. Today, the network travelled overnight to Bangkok to submit a letter to the Minister of Agriculture and Cooperatives as the chairman of the Board of Directors and the Royal Irrigation Department.

The network also stressed that this project shows that the impact of the Khong-Chi-Mun project has not yet been fully resolved and therefore does not want the government to proceed with the Klong-Loei-Chi-Mun water diversion project which will also divert water from the River Mekong into Isan.

“We came to Bangkok. Today, because the water management power centre is here,” said Sirisak Saduak, the coordinator of the Lower Chi River Basin Network in Roi Et Province. Community participation in water management is a sustainable solution.”