Thai government warned against plan to divert Mekong water

By Visarut Sankham, The Nation/Asia News Network

The Nation/Asia News Network–The decision contravenes the Agreement on the Cooperation for the Sustainable Development of the Mekong River Basin, which was signed in 1995, because the Thai government has not asked for permission from the Mekong River Commission (MRC), according to NGO representatives.

The MRC is an inter-governmental organization with members Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam.

Hannarong Yaowalers, chairman of Thai-Water Partnerships, said Thailand would be the first country to install water pumps along the Mekong River since 1995 if the government went ahead with the project.

“The attempt to use water from the Mekong River needs to be discussed at the MRC,” he said.

Hannarong was responding to the Royal Irrigation Department’s construction of a pump station on the river in the northeast.

Somkiat Prajamwong, director of the office of project management at the Royal Irrigation Department, described the project as urgent but added that it would be operational for just for three months to ease the drought from February to April.

“This is a 15-million-baht project. Of that, 10 million baht is for construction and 5 million baht for electricity costs,” he said.

The irrigation department plans to divert water from the Mekong River 80 kilometers to Nong Khai’s Huai Luang water gate and then to the nearby Luang watercourse.

Somkiat said he expected the project to irrigate 300,000 rai (48,000 hectares) of farmland in Nong Khai and Udon Thani provinces. “With such an amount of water (40 million cubic meters), we don’t have to inform the MRC. In addition, we will pump water only when the water level in the Mekong River is higher than the normal level compared to the dry season of previous years,” he added.

Hannarong responded that the MRC must be consulted regardless of the volume of water diverted.