Plans are underway for the construction of a major hydroelectric dam on the Mekong River in Thailand that could have grave implications for hundreds of thousands of Cambodians living downstream, experts warned.
The Thai Energy Ministry is conducting a feasibility study on the construction of a dam in the northeastern province of Ubon Ratchathani, which would power a 1,800-megawatt generator for an estimated investment of $2.5 billion, Thailand’s The Nation newspaper reported Sunday.
But experts say a dam on the lower mainstream of the Mekong, the section of the river running through Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam, could have drastic consequences.
Many Cambodian communities are closely dependent on the Mekong for fish, fresh water, fertile silt, and transportation, among many other essential functions, and the health of the river is essential for their wellbeing, Carl Middleton of the International Rivers group wrote by e-mail Monday.
“By changing the river’s hydrology, blocking fish migration and affecting the river’s ecology, the construction of dams on the lower-Mekong mainstream—such as [the one in Ubon Ratchathani in Thailand]—is likely to result in serious impacts for downstream countries,” he wrote.
Pich Dun, secretary-general of the National Mekong River Commision, said he was unaware of Thailand’s plans for a dam, but added that such a construction was likely to be opposed.
“Any country can make a feasibility study but they would need agreement from all the countries on the Mekong before they could build such a dam,” he said.
Building a dam of such proportions in that part of the Mekong would be like “cutting a bloodline on the river because it affects the whole ecology,” said Mak Sothirith, executive director of NGO the Fishery Action Coalition Team.
The Thai Embassy did not reply to a request for comment on Tuesday.