Rasi Salai Dam, located in the Northeast region of Thailand on the Mun River, is part of the Khong-Chi-Mun Project (KCM) scheme, a large-scale irrigation scheme planned for Northeast Thailand (also known as the Isaan region) by the Thai government. The project was commissioned in 1989, construction began in 1992, and was completed in 1994 as a 17-meter high concrete dam with a large reservoir. Original plans were for the dam to provide irrigation to approximately 5,500 hectares; however, the second estimate suggested that only 1,600 ha of land would be irrigated. Unfortunately, the canals were never completed thus rendering the dam useless. The dam was originally estimated to cost US$4.32 million (140 million Baht), but actual costs were far over budget costing US$26.7 million (871 million Baht – nearly six times the planned amount).
Many controversies have surrounded the Rasi Salai dam. In 1989 when the government approved the dam for construction an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) was not prepared, despite national requirements to do so; nor was there village consultation. In 2000 the Department of Energy Development and Promotion (DEDP) agreed to carry out a Social Impact Assessment (SIA) that was completed in 2010. Also, as of 2010, the EIA had been started but was not yet completed. The inundated area was previously an area abundant with rich soils for rice cultivation and wetland forest that provided villagers with other livelihood opportunities. Affected people are still lacking fair compensation and losses have never been officially assessed or acknowledged. Compensation was paid in three separate rounds beginning in 1996 where 1,154 households out of over 3000 were compensated at a rate of 32,000 Baht per rai of land. Subsequent rounds of compensation vary in the amount of compensation provided and the number of households eligible. However, approximately half of the affected villagers have either received insufficient or no compensation. Over the course of the project, villagers were repeatedly excluded from the decision-making process and access to information was denied, especially in the final stages of construction. Besides the loss of approximately 15 fish species and river and wetland diversity, the Rasi Salai Reservoir sits on top of a large underground rock salt deposit. This has resulted in water seeping down to the underground salt domes and drawing salt back up into the reservoir thus increasing salinity and decreasing the productivity of irrigation as crops are exposed to salted water. (1) (3) (4) (8) (9) (10) (12) (13) (14)