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Pak Mun Hydropower Dam, Thailand


Approved for construction in 1989, the Pak Mun hydropower plant was commissioned by EGAT (Electricity Authority Of Thailand) and was completed in 1994. It was co-financed by the Thai Government and the World Bank for US$ 260 million (6.507 Billion Baht). The Pak Mun Dam has an annual generation capacity of 290 GWh and sits 17 meters tall, 300 meters wide, and its reservoir is 60 square kilometers (6). The main purposes were for electricity generation and irrigation. However, despite the dam’s capacity, Pak Mun generates 136 MW in the wet season and only 40 MW in the dry season. A study completed by the Thailand Development Resource Institute (TDRI) to assess the dam’s development effectiveness revealed a gap between the anticipated project benefits and those that occurred in practice (3). The project displaced 1,700 households and approximately 25,000 people were affected either directly, or indirectly. Major impacts of the dam include: a decrease in fish species, destruction of biodiversity along the river basin, erosion of riverbanks and naturally fertilized soil, and changes in water flow for irrigation. Ecosystem changes affected the villagers as the majority of their economy was based on fishing, agriculture and use of natural products from the riverside forest areas. The villagers were not included in the decision-making at any stage of the project and still have not received fair compensation for their losses.

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Pak Mun Hydropower Dam, Thailand
State or province:Ubon Ratchathani Province
Location of conflict:Ban Hua Heo, Khong Chiam district
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict: 1st level:Water Management
Type of conflict: 2nd level :Dams and water distribution conflicts
Water access rights and entitlements
Land acquisition conflicts
Aquaculture and fisheries
Specific commodities:
Project Details and Actors
Project details:

136 MW electricity (varies throughout the year), annual generation of 290 GWh

Project area:6,000
Level of Investment:USD$ 240,000,000
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:20,000-25,000
Start of the conflict:1990
Company names or state enterprises:Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT) from Thailand
Relevant government actors:now the Ministry of Energy (Thailand) since 2002, RID
International and Finance InstitutionsThe World Bank (WB) from United States of America
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Assembly of the Poor, Living Rivers Siam, International Rivers
Conflict and Mobilization
IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stageMobilization for reparations once impacts have been felt
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Local ejos
Social movements
Local scientists/professionals
Fisher people
Forms of mobilization:Community-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Development of alternative proposals
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Land occupation
Media based activism/alternative media
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Occupation of buildings/public spaces
Arguments for the rights of mother nature
Appeals/recourse to economic valuation of the environment
Impacts of the project
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil erosion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Potential: Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality
Health ImpactsPotential: Malnutrition, Violence related health impacts (homicides, rape, etc..), Health problems related to alcoholism, prostitution
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Militarization and increased police presence, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession
Potential: Loss of landscape/sense of place, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Strengthening of participation
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:Studies to assess the impacts of the project on local livelihoods and local ecosystems were not completed until after completion in 1994. In response to concerns about over 150 fish species, a concrete fish ladder was installed in 1996, but its design was flawed and did not allow for upstream migration. There has been a substantial lack of compensation given out to the affected people as well as concerns over the lack of information provided over the course of the project. Study results have, however, led to an annual 4-month opening of the dam’s floodgates. Despite an agreement from the government to open the gates, this is only a small victory as the gates are only opened after local communities mobilize to protest each year. (2) (3) (5) (6)
Sources and Materials
Related laws and legislations - Juridical texts related to the conflict

National Environment Quality Act (Thailand, 1992); Constitution of the Kingdom of Thailand B.E. 2550, article 57, article 58, article 66, article 67, article 85, article 87 (Thailand, 2007); Official Information Act (Thailand, 1997); Ratification of Rio Declaration, Agenda 21, UNFCCC; Khong-Chi-Mun Project (KCM, Thailand); Ninth National Plan (Thailand, from 2002 to 2009); Power Development Plan (Thailand);

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

(1) Amornsakchai, S., P. Annez, S. Vongvisessomjai, S. Choowaew, Thailand Development Research Institute (TDRI), P. Kunurat, J. Nippanon, R. Schouten, P. Sripapatrprasite, C. Vaddhanaphuti, C. Vidthayanon, W. Wirojanagud & E. Watana. 2000. Pak Mun Dam, Mekong River Basin, Thailand. World Commission on Dams.

(2) Foran, Tira & Kanokwan Manorom. 2009. Pak Mun Dam: Perpetually Contested? Contested Waterscapes in the Mekong Region: Hydropower, Livelihoods and Governance, ed. by F. Molle, T. Foran & M. Käkönen, 55-80. London, Sterling, VA: Earthscan.

(3) Hirsch, Philip. (2010). “The Changing Political Dynamics of Dam Building on the Mekong”. Water Alternatives 3(2): 312-323.

(4) Jenkins Katie, McGauhey Lyndia, Mills Wesley (2008) “Voices from the margin: Economic, social and cultural rights in Northeast Thailand – Pak Mun Dam”, ESCR Mobilization Project.

(5) World Commission on Dams (2000) “Pak Mun Dam Mekong River Basin Thailand”, Report by World Commission on Dams (WCD).

(6) Zeller, Nicholas Ryan. (2012). “New Means, Old Ends? World Bank Governmentality in Thailand and Lao People’s Democratic Republic.” Masters Theses, University of Tennessee.

K. Bakker, "The Politics of Hydropower", published in Political Geography 1999

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

[click to view]

(7) Dulin, Allison; Franko, Cloe; Heun, Christi; Masterson, Spencer. (2008). “Voices from the margin”. International Rivers. 8 December 2008.
[click to view]

(9) International Rivers. (n.d.). “Pak Mun Dam”. International Rivers, Campaigns.
[click to view]

Other comments:The final cost of the dam was 260 million US$ (6,507 billion Baht). The dam was paid by EGAT and the World Bank. Compensation and Resettlement costs paid until 1999 are of 44,24 million US$ (1,113 million Baht).
Meta information
Contributor:Carl Middleton, Sarah Allen, Matilde Sgotto
Last update05/07/2014
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