Bangkok, Sept 17- The seminar titled ‘Stop Dam on the Mekong : Voices of fishermen’ was held by cooperation of civil society network and NGOs from Thailand and Cambodia including Fishermen community along the Mun River, the Mekong Community Organization Councils and Cambodian Fishermen network at Sasa International House (Sasa Nives), Chulalongkorn University.
Sompong Vienchan, representative of the communities living near the Mun River, Ubon Ratchathani province, whose lives are affected by Pak Mun Dam construction, said that in case that Lao government is going forward constructing Xayaburi and Donsahong dams, it is clearly disapproved by fishermen, farmers, NGOs and environmental Academics. Repeatedly, they have been calling for all sectors to halt the projects. What they are most concerned is once Don Sahong is really built, Hoo Sahong will have to be exploded. Then, inevitably, it will affect people living in Ubon Ratchathani and communities surrounding the Mun River who have already been in trouble causing by Pak Mun dam. Also, their gathering to request Thai Government to open the dam gate will be useless. While Hoo Sahong channel in Champasak is the habitat of diverse fish.
“Now in Thailand, there is the new government. We suffer more because we have nothing to eat. We are waiting for new committee appointment to solve the problem of Pak Mun dam but there’s still no hope. It’s even worse facing Don Sahong dam case. There’s no place for us to fight anymore. What we want Thailand and investors to realize is the linkage between the Mun and the Mekong River. In the past we used to fish in our fishing ground. Most of fish migrated from the Mekong. But this year the fish are rare. We called for opening the dam gate but the request was ignored. The Don Sahong Dam will also make people suffer as Pak Mun Dam did.”, said Sompong.
So Jad, representative of Cambodian NGOs about fisheries said that they see many dam construction projects on the Mekong. Therefore, information about the effects to people in Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia should be truthfully disclosed. For example, there is the linkage between the Mekong and lakes from which local people rely on fishing. The tide at the lake is influenced by the flow from the mainstream Mekong. 60 percent of water in the lake is pushed up from the Mekong, creating the area of more than 160 thousand hectares. The rest is from other distributaries.
During the past 3-4 years, local fishermen in Cambodia have been able to catch approximately 360 thousand tons of fish for domestic consumption and export. The Lake provides food for more than 4 million people living around. 25 percent of which do not own land because the government refuses to give the legal land possession rights to them. Every single plot of land is public land. Onec the dams are built, it is impossible for local fishermen to go on their fishing. It is government’s responsibility to deal with homelessness and unemployment as well as migration of the people whose lives are affected by the dams. Therefore, about 200 thousand Cambodians have signed the petition to call on the government to halt the dam construction projects on the Mekong as well as release statement with other parties.
Som Ard, a local fisherman from Cambodia said that dam projects in Laos were conducted without good governance by planners, executor and investors. Permitting investors to build a dam is the cruel weapon to destroy livelihood of the Mekong people. It is similarly to the Yali Fall Dam in Vietnam which causes numerous effects afterward. Nobody wants history to repeat itself. Therefore, we would like to call for good governance in Thailand especially towards the dam projects in the Mekong. The river belongs to no one but the region. Nobody wants to use electricity but lose their source of food. Many people rely on the Mekong and its distributaries.
“Some people in Cambodia are very poor. They have to live in floating house in the lake and cannot go far. Some people don’t have id card but they can survive thanks to the river. It’s still alright with no right to own land and being homeless but living without source of food is unbearable. Recently, the government has started to take action but we don’t believe that they really have sympathy and realize how poor people feel. Migration and fleeing from suffering have been occurred in Cambodia for many times. This time it’s like our breath is taken away. The Lao government should recognize.” Said Som Ard.