The Bhumibol Dam, a critical water resource in Tak province, now finds itself at the centre of a dramatic debate. An audacious 200 billion baht water diversion project that aims to sustain a reliable water supply to the dam now teeters on an uncertain future. Local residents have approached the Chiang Mai Administrative Court, calling for the project’s cancellation — a plea that was made official on Wednesday.
This ambitious project comes with a remarkable logistical blueprint. It encapsulates the construction of a diversion barrier, a coordinating road directly connecting the barrier, a reservoir, a water pump station, and a water supply tunnel. However, it’s not just about the constructional element; the project stands to significantly alter the local environment.— a factor not lost on the residents.
The key motivation behind this venture? To ensure a perennial influx of water supply to the Bhumibol Dam. Why is that so important? Well, this dam is no ordinary water body; it serves as a critical source of water catered for farming activities and hydroelectric power production.
Yet the project, which spreads over an expansive 3,641 rai, overlaps some lands that have been marked for annexation into the picturesque Mae Ngao National Park.
As per the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report, the project’s undertaking could have more human implications than just the anticipated environmental ones; 29 families living in a total of 36 villages could face the fallouts from this significant endeavour.
Consequently, the People’s Network of Yuam-Ngao-Moei-Salwin Basin and residents from Chiang Mai, Tak, and Mae Hong Son decided to take their case to court. They’ve held the Royal Irrigation Department (RID), the expert committee responsible for conducting the EIA report, the Office of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy and Planning, the National Environment Committee, and the cabinet as the defendants in this case.
What next? The petitioners are demanding the court suspend or altogether cancel the narratively controversial project. They claim the project has moved forth in blatant disregard of the law. Their claim doesn’t just point fingers but also gives a solution: the petitioners seek a court ruling that could compel the concerned authorities to draft regulations or laws and effectively protect the river basins skirting the Yuam, Ngao, Moei, and Salaween rivers. These bodies of water are all expected to bear the brunt of the project’s impact, an ill-effect that even nature itself cannot afford.