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of Pak Chom Dam

on Local Food
in Kok Wao

Tipakson Manpati
Mekong School
November 12, 2009
1 .To assess the livelihood
of communities that will
be affected by the dam
2. To estimate potential
impacts of the dam on
the environment,
society and local
3. To enhance people’s ability
to access rights to
information and
participation in decisions
concerning development

4. To promote sustainable
livelihoods and food
Pak Chom: Mekong Mainstream
• 1950s- the Mekong Committee proposed the idea of lower
Mekong mainstream dams

• 1960s- the committee launched plans for a cascade of seven

large-scale “multi-purpose” dams (hydroelectricity, flood
control, irrigation, and navigation)

• 1970s- the plan to dam were proposed into the Mekong

Committee’s indicative plan
Pak Chom: Mekong Mainstream

• After the cold war the Mekong Committee became the

Mekong River Commission (MRC), and revived the old
plans for Mainstream Mekong dams

• 2007- Thailand, Lao and Cambodia governments

granted approval to Chinese, Thai, Malaysian, Russian
and Vietnamese companies to conduct feasibility studies
on at least 11 dam projects on the lower Mekong
Proposed cascade
of dams on the

Pakbeng, Luangprabang,
Sayabouli, Paklay,
Sanakham, Latsua and
Donesahong in Laos, at
Ban Koum and Pakchom
along the Thai-Lao
border, and at Strung
Treng and Sambor in
The ADB’s
The GMS Power grid
plan involves Regional
Power Interconnections
and Power Trade
Agreements to promote
hydropower projects on
the Mekong mainstream.

Is Pak Chom dam

project a part of the
ADB’s GMS Power
Research site: Kok Wao village

Vientiane province, Lao

Loei province, Thailand

Pak Chom dam

• Pa Mong to Pak Chom: Dusted off dam project

• The Pa Mong dam was originally proposed by the Mekong

River Commission in 1997

• Thailand’s Alternative Energy Development and Efficiency

Department proposed Pak Chom dam (2007)
TERRA, April 2009
The dam project information

• Location: on the Mekong River

between Thailand-Lao border
• Dam capacity: 1,079 MW
• Estimated cost: 69,641 billion Baht
• Type: Run-of-river with fish ladders
• 82-square-kilometer reservoir to
store water, submerging 4,127 Rai –
660.32 Hectare*

*1 Rai = 0.16 Hectare

The dam project information
• Estimated effect to
cultivation land: 128
hectare in Thailand,
88.48 hectare in Laos
• Estimated effect to
villages: Kok Wao,
Huay Khob (Had Kam
Pi, Pak Mung, Sa Ngao,
Pak Niam, Sri Pu
Thorn, Pak Chom
district, Huay Hang
The dam project stage

A Pre-feasibility study and initial environmental examination

of two “hydraulic cascade weir projects” on the Mekong (Ban
Koum and Pak Chom) was finished by Panya Consultant
Company and Macro Consultant Company in February, 2008.
The dam project stage

Since the Pre-feasibility study

and initial environmental
examination were finished in
2008, the dam project stage
has not been clear.

However, in the dam site have

been some marks.
Dam site
Information access
• No transparency and little
public participation in public
hearings and feasibility study
• Monopoly over information by
the government and
• Not wide spread of the dam
project stage information
“I heard there is a plan to
build a dam, but I don’t
know the details. It is
necessary to inform villagers
of the details. They only say
that we will have to move
our homes, temple and
school. I wonder why it will
be like that. However, they
don’t explain in detail the
benefits and losses. We want
to know the details.” Lung
Fern (September 19, 2009)
Potential impacts on
local food security
Livelihoods and food
The World Food Summit
of 1996 defined food
security as existing
“when all people at all
times have access to
sufficient, safe,
nutritious food to
maintain a healthy
and active life”.
Food security in Kok Wao village
• Most villagers are at least self-sufficient in basic
food from back yard gardening along the
riversides and hillsides.
• 80% of households depend on food from the
Mekong river ecosystem.
• 20% of households depend more on food from
the market together with some natural food from
the Mekong and mountainous ecosystems.

Focus group discussion (September 24, 2009)

Dependency of food


River bank

Villager’s food security
“I’ve been living with the
Mekong River since I was born
and grew up. I love the Mekong.
When I was a child, I wasn’t
afraid of the river. I went to
swim and catch fish and shrimp
and brought buckets full home.
In the dry season, I plant
vegetables along the river bank.
If the Mekong River dries up, it
will be hard to find food. Life
will be difficult.” Grandma Tad,
river bank gardener (September
16, 2009)
What will happen to
food security if the
dam is built? • Eliminate wild fish
capture (direct)
• Submerge natural
food along the river
bank ecosystem
• Destroy river bank
gardening and
agriculture (direct)
• Speed up mono-
plantation invasion
into forest areas
Local fisheries
• 11 sub-ecosystems
in the Mekong
River in Kok Wao

• 80% catch fish for

a living

• 20% catch fish for

Wild fish capture
“I earn income from fishing around
4,000-5,000 Baht/year. I fish to eat
first then I sell. I don’t have to buy food
from market. But today, it is more
difficult to catch fish. Many kind of fish
have disappeared because people use
electricity and explosive to catch fish.”
Grandpa Bee, fisherman (September,

“Nowadays, fish in the Mekong River is

decreasing because of ecosystem has
changed. Sometime a lot of water comes
and caused erosion and destroy food of
fish.” Grandpa Bu, fisherman
(September, 2009)
Food along the
river banks

• At least 28 kinds of
wild and cultivated

• At least 7 kinds of
edible riverine
animals and insects

Focus group discussion (September 19, 2009)

River bank gardening

3 years ago river bank gardens

covered an estimated 250 Rai
(40 Hectare). 50 families
out of 95 households
owned an average of 5 Rai
(0.8 Hectare) per family
At present, due to erosion, only 28 households still have
small pieces of river bank land left for “mini-gardening”
River bank erosion !!

September, 2009
What caused the river bank erosion?

The villagers’ perspective on river
bank erosion
“8 years ago, the Naga swim in the Mekong River. Water flowed
very strong. I don’t know where the water came from.
After that year, many rocks that I had never seen before emerged
in the Mekong River. When I was young the water level
moved up and down due to the season, but the river bank
never eroded. Now, the Mekong River in dry season has less
water than usual. I can’t conclude why it happens.” Pa Taew
(October 1, 2009)

Upstream dams on the Mekong River

Mountain ecosystem

• Origin of 19 tributary streams.

• Provides wild food and animals
• Highland rice fields
• Fruit orchards
• Crop fields (e.g. corn, cassava,
• Economic mono-plantations (e.g.
rubber tree)
Wild food in the mountains
What might happen if the dam is built?

• Deforestation
• Intensive cultivation
and mono-plantations ---
more debt
• Increase competition
for resources
• Reduction of natural
food and wild food
“We can collect
many food in the
forest, but it’s
more difficult
than we collect it
from the river and
river bank area.
We can plant
vegetable in the
mountain it need
a lot of take care,
especially water.”
• Information about the dam project has not been
widespread and is unclear
• There has not been full public participation from
the feasibility study onward
• Many of Kok Wao villagers feel worried about the
• The villager’s food security is already threatened
by erosion and the dam will make this worse
• There are potential negative impacts of the dam
on local fisheries and river bank and forest ecosystems
Recommendation and requests for
Thai and Lao governments and

• The governments and companies must disclose information

on the development projects to the public through all kind of
media, meetings and forums regarding right to information and

• The governments and companies must provide spaces for

full rights to information and public participation in
decisions at all levels concerning development projects
Recommendations and requests for
Thai and Lao governments and

• Concerning development projects, the governments and companies

must conduct (new) feasibility, EIA, SIA and HIA studies
with full people’s participation, working with local people, NGOs
and CSOs with good-governance transparency, and democracy

• The government and companies must respect community’s

rights to manage resources for sustainable livelihoods
Recommendation for the Mekong
River Commission (MRC) and ASEAN:
• The MRC must take an active role to push the governments in the
Mekong region toward sustainable development with knowledge based
public decisions

• ASEAN must take action to stop destructive projects in the Mekong

and ASEAN region based on people oriented participation in decision
making, and support renewable and sustainable energy
Recommendations for NGOs and civil
society organizations should:
• Work closely and continuously with the local people in
order to enhance people’s ability to access rights to
information and participation in decisions concerning
development projects
• Promote and support trainings for local people to
preserve sustainable livelihoods.
• Work in a strong network to circulate information on
the dam situation to local people for campaign strategies
with local people’s participation
Recommendations for Communities
in affected areas should:
• Follow up on the situation of the dam project
• Exchange and share information and learn
experience about sustainable livelihood and
development project issues with neighboring
• Set up information center to share and discuss
issues related to the dam project in order to increase
solidarity among communities.
• Monitor local authorities and take an active role in
decisions about the projects
Thank you.

Discussion, questions and

comments are welcomed
and appreciated