Bangkok Post

Plodprasop takes aim at dam opponent

Deputy PM says Pramote devised Mae Wong plans


A new layer has been added to the debate over the Mae Wong dam project, with the dam’s chief supporter and opponent being accused of shifting stances.

Deputy Prime Minister Plodprasop Suraswadi yesterday said the project’s key opponent, former Irrigation Department chief Pramote Maiklad, actually proposed the dam in the first place.

Mr Pramote now questions the dam’s legality and effectiven­ess, but Mr Plodprasop yesterday issued a reminder that the dam was initially proposed by the Irrigation Department in 1982.

Mr Pramote joined the Irrigation Department in 1968 and worked mainly in dam design and building. He had responsibi­lity for proposing projects.

He became the department’s directorge­neral in 1997 until he resigned in 2000 to join a Bangkok senator election.

‘‘Give me one day. I will find the letter sent to me, as Forestry Department chief, by Mr Pramote, as chief of the Irrigation Department,’’ Mr Plodprasop said.

‘‘People who protest against the dam are targeting the wrong person. They should have protested against Mr Pramote.’’

The Irrigation Department first proposed a plan and sought a budget to build the Mae Wong dam in Nakhon Sawan province in 1982.

Its environmen­tal impacts assessment (EIA) study was rejected twice, in 1998 and 2002.

Mr Plodprasop was actually an opponent of the original plan when he headed the Forestry Department in 1998-2002 and rejected its EIA studies.

The Forestry Department, under Mr Plodprasop, rejected the Irrigation Department’s request to use part of Mae Wong National Park for the dam project because a large area of the forest would be flooded as a result.

‘‘I will definitely not approve a land use request by the Irrigation Department if the whole reservoir is located in the protected forest, like Mae Wong dam in Nakhon Sawan province,’’ Mr Plodprasop said in a report published in the Bangkok Post in 2001.

Mr Plodprasop also demanded that another EIA study be conducted.

‘‘The existing EIA has studied only the impact of the dam on a forest reserve area, but not on the wildlife sanctuary,’’ he was quoted as saying.

However, he is now the dam’s most prominent supporter, despite fierce opposition from environmen­talists.

His about-face comes after the plan was adapted to fit in with the govern- ment’s 350-billion-baht flood prevention scheme, which Mr Plodprasop heads.

Mae Wong is one of 28 dams under the scheme.

Mr Plodprasop said the project’s flood prevention value outweighs its negative impacts on the forest and wildlife.

He said that his flood-prevention committee adapted Mr Pramote’s project so it could better serve the purpose of water management.

Mr Plodprasop said the environmen­tal and health impacts assessment (EHIA) being criticised by environmen­talists opposing the dam was also prepared by the Irrigation Department, not by his committee.

Environmen­talists claim the study bypassed a public hearing and failed to include important data about the forest’s fertility.

Mr Plodprasop said he is open to suggestion­s about how to improve the project’s environmen­tal impact assessment, but he will not listen to people who tell him not to build the dam.

‘‘If an EIA is needed, it means environmen­tal impacts are expected,’’ he said.

‘‘The point is how to mitigate them so that they become minimal.’’

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra yesterday asked Mr Plodprasop to invite Sasin Chalermlar­p, secretaryg­eneral of the Seub Nakhasathi­en Foundation who led a protest against Mae Wong project, to join a public hearing on it.

According to the source, Ms Yingluck is keen to head off any belief by the public that the government lacked concern over forestry matters.

Meanwhile, local administra­tion executives in Lat Yao, Chumtabong, Mae Wong, and Mae Poen districts who back the dam are appealing to villagers to get behind the cause.

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