Thursday, August 27, 2009

Floods from dam near Thai–Burmese border cause concern

by Usa Pichai
Wednesday, 26 August 2009 12:53

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) –The incident of flash floods near the Thai-Burmese border last week points to the ineffectiveness of the authorities in addition to its blatant blacking out of information, environmentalists have pointed out.

Witoon Permpongsacharoen, an environmentalist attached to the ‘Towards Ecological Recovery and Regional Alliance’, a Bangkok based organization working closely with environmental issues in the region told Mizzima that the recent flooding from the Srikakarin Dam in the Kanchanaburi Province bordering Burma, affected several villages in the area.

But information on this was not available from the authorities.

“While compensation is necessary it is important that the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat) and the Petroleum Authority of Thailand (currently the PTT Public Co. Ltd.) should clarify the facts. Earlier there had been warnings that the dam was vulnerable to earthquakes. Besides there was lack of study on the environmental effect in the area from the construction of the dam,” he said.

“The media seems to have no interest in following up the issue though it affects so many villagers,” he said.

Witoon pointed out that the planned series of dams to be built on the Salween River in Burma will also be at risk from earthquakes “even though the authorities claim that engineering technology could solve this problem and resist damage from earthquakes, measuring up to seven on the Richter scale. But who can guarantee whether earthquakes will not be stronger?” he asked.

The dams has been built on the Srisawat active fault near the Three Pagoda Pass, both on the Thai– Burma border and is at risk from earthquakes.

The incident follows an accident during gas transmission from the Bongkot in the Thai Gulf and Yadana fields in Burma last week. To avoid a power blackout in western Thailand due to the stoppage, the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat) decided to release water from the Srinakarin Dam in Kanchanaburi province close to the Burmese border to generate power, which resulted in flooding large areas and affecting hundreds of local villagers. There are rumours that the dam has been damaged by an earthquake.

The cabinet was given the report and has acknowledged the technical problems. It was informed that eight villages in Muang district had been affected by floods, along with three resorts, some raft operations and farmlands. A committee has been set up to investigate the sudden release of water from the Srinakarin Dam.

Deputy permanent secretary Norkun Sitthiphong will chair the committee, which has been given seven days to investigate and submit a report.

"The committee will find out why the water had to be released and whether the decision was appropriate. It must also come up with preventive measures," he said, denying reports that the floods were caused by an earthquake.

However, in 2007 the fault line in Burma caused small earthquakes in the Golden Triangle areas, connecting Laos, Burma and Thailand, when a 6.1 magnitude earthquake occurred about 700 kilometres from Bangkok.

Such tremors were however not dangerous, but has been causing worry about fault lines near the capital such as the Sakaing fault in the Andaman Sea, 400 kilometres from Bangkok or the Three Pagoda fault zone and the Srisawat fault in Kanchanaburi, 200 kilometres from Bangkok.

Leave a Reply