Thai authorities put off promise to open dam gates for fish migration

After an inconclusive meeting, state officials have stalled on a promise to open the gates on a controversial dam in Isan, Thailand’s Northeast, to allow fish to migrate during the breeding season.  

High ranking military officers in the northeastern province of Ubon Ratchathani, Prateep Kiratileka, the provincial governor, and other relevant state officials on Thursday morning held a meeting with representatives of the Assembly of the Poor, a civil society organisation which represents marginalised and poor communities in Thailand.  

The meeting was held three days after the Assembly of the Poor issued a letter to the provincial governor to request state authorities to open the gates of the Pak Mun Dam, a controversial hydroelectric dam in the province, to allow fish to migrate during the breeding season.

State officials and representatives of the Assembly of the Poor met on 28 May 2015 to discuss a plan to open the gates on the Pak Mun Dam in Ubon Ratchathani

At the end of the meeting, the governor promised that the dam gates will be opened, but the impact of the plan must be thoroughly studied first.

The authorities will finalise the decision whether to open the dam gates at another meeting on 2 June 2015.  

During the meeting, the directors of the Provincial Royal Irrigation Department and Electricity Generating Authority said that more information on water levels and weather forecasts is needed before the decision to open the dam is reached.  

The Assembly of the Poor, however, pointed out that local people who live along the Mun River Basin have long been engaged in fishery. Therefore, the authorities must open the dam gates to allow many fish species to lay eggs and reproduce.    

“We have to find an answer to who has the authority to open the gates of the Pak Mun Dam. Now, it’s already the season when fish have to migrate to lay eggs” stated the representative of the Assembly of the Poor.

The Pak Mun Dam is a hydroelectric dam on the Mun River just above the confluence with the Mekong River in Ubon Ratchathani Province. The dam was built by the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand with the support of the World Bank (WB) and was completed in 1994.

The dam has long been opposed by many environmental groups in Thailand and abroad for its environmental impacts on local fish species, which many communities along the river depend on.