Petition against the WB involvement in the Pak Mun dam

Date: Mon, 27 Jan 2003 03:40:20 +0000
From: katie callahan

Dear Peoples' Global Action

My name is Katie Callahan and I am an American working with ENGAGE which is a small organization based in Khon Kaen, Thailand. We have been working closely with many people's organizations and NGOs and one project that we are doing right now is collecting signatures against the World Bank's involvement in the disastrous Pak Mun dam in Northeastern Thailand. We were hoping that you would sign onto this petition (attached below) as well.

The dam was completed in 1994 with funds from the World Bank. Over 6000 families have been relocated from their land and from their way of life by the construction this dam on the Mun River. The dam has displaced far more people than was expected, causing a loss of both traditional wisdom and economic stability. These people were fishermen and and fishing both shaped their culture as well as provided them with their main source of income. They have been compensated minimally for the hardships that have resulted from the dam. Many families have been split apart as some members have had to work in Bangkok or in other countries.

In addition to the social and economic costs, the dam has been an energy- producing failure. It produces a fraction of what was projected and studies have shown that the country and the region could exist full well without the use of the dam.

The affected villagers have been protesting since the dams initial planning stages over 12 years ago and have never given up their fight. They will continue to fight until the dam is decommissioned. While this has been a long struggle, it is kind of coming to a head right now. after a series of police beatings in the fall, the villagers' relocation/protest village was burned to the ground in the last month by masked men, most likely connected to the state energy company which thus, prompted massive protests in Bangkok by the villagers. As if to add salt to a sore wound, it has just been ruled that the people can no longer live in their protest village outside of the Government House in Bangkok as well. Their home in the northeast was ruined and now they are forced from their makeshift home in Bangkok as well.

A lot of action is being organized in support of the Pak Mun villagers right now throughout the country and one of these things is this petition to the World Bank. If you are interested send your name and locality (and anyone else you know that is interested) to by the 7th of February.

In solidarity,
Katie Callahan
ENGAGE Thailand

Dear Mr Wolfensen,

You have too long ignored the poverty and suffering of the over 6,000 Thai families impacted by one of your projects, the Pak Mun Dam. We, X organizations, X academics and X individuals of X countries, are writing to request that the Bank act responsible by taking a firm stance and calling for the Pak Mun Dam to be decommissioned. This is the only way for local communities and the river ecology to be restored.

Over the past 13 years, the World Bank consistently ignored both academic research and the concerns expressed by affected villagers. The Bank chose to support this project and fund the dam's construction despite:

A series of basic compensation packages was given to displaced villagers in response to repeated protests. But fair and full compensation has never been given, and it never can be until villagers are compensated for lost vegetation, forest food sources, fish, a way of life that dies when the river's mouth is closed, and other tangible but hard- to- quantify losses. These local families would have to be paid at lease the equivalent of lost food and income for everyday of every week of every year that the dam gates remain closed.

The World Commission on Dams (WCD) concluded in 2000 that the economic, social, and environmental costs of the dam far outweigh the irrigation and energy benefits. Again at this time you failed to take any action to correct the Bank's mistake in supporting construction of this poorly planned project. Two more studies were completed in August 2002 that support the conclusions of the WCD report. The Ubon Ratchathani University research was commissioned by theThai government to examine the environmental, social, and economic impacts of the dam. The Thai Baan or "Villager" research was carried out by villagers with the help from the Southeast Asian Rivers Network (SEARIN) and examined the restoration of communities and ecology during the period when the sluice gates were opened.

The Ubon Ratchathani University study found that "Even if the Dam does not generate and electricity, stability of electric current is not negatively impacted" and that irrigation is extremely limited and the benefits negligible. During the dam's construction in 1991, many of the rapids that the fish use as both habitat and breeding ground were either exploded or submerged. Closure of the sluice gates harms the river's ecology and disrupts the natural life-cycles of fish migrating from the Mekong to spawn. These two factors significantly reduce fish populations, while the high waters required for electricity render the remaining fish inaccessible to local fishermen with their small-scale traditional gear.

The Pak Mun Dam is responsible, in terms of easily quantifiable costs, for a major drop in household incomes in the Pak Mun area. The proportion of household incomes below the poverty line increased from 32.7 percent in 1990 to 62.5percent in 2000. In real terms, an average fishing income of 600 USD per household per year in 1990 declined to 70 USD per household per year by 2000.

Mr. Wolfensen, by admitting that construction of the Pak Mun Dam was a mistake that caused harm to local communities and by issuing a clear statement to this effect you can help all parties move forward to sustainable solutions. Opening the gates of the Pak Mun Dam will bring restoration of the local communities and the ecology on which they depend.

It is time for you to take responsibility.

It is time for the suffering of over 6,000 families to end.

It is time to decommission the Pak Mun dam.

Thank you for your commitment to reducing poverty in Thailand.

Respectfully yours,

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