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Ten Years' Fighting for the Mun River
Story by Wandee Suntivutimetee
Photos by Vanchai Tan
Click to Bigger     In May 1991, an explosion was heard at Kan Heaw islet five kilometers from the mouth of the Mun River, the largest and longest river of the Northeast. Debris from the bomb and bits of rock scattered over the river. That rainy season, fish from the Mekong did not swim up to lay their eggs as usual. Fishers of the Mun began to demonstrate, calling for the halting of dam construction until studies of social and environmental impacts could be done. No one seemed to listen. A giant concrete wall and eight water gates gradually grew from one bank to the other until finally they completely blocked the river.
    During the three years since the sound of the first explosion to the completion of the dam, villagers' income from fishing decreased until it could not sustain them. After five months of protesting for compensation, EGAT agreed to pay each of the 3,227 families 90,000 baht.
Click to Bigger     Many believed they could resume fishery after the construction because the Department of Fishery would introduce baby fish and shrimp into the reservoir and the fish ladder would enable fish to lay their eggs as before. Years of waiting saw the same small catch. Surveys showed that only 55 species were able to reach the top of the ladder and no one can guarantee whether these can find a nest site since all but one islet where fishes lay their eggs are now submerged under deep water.
    When fishers realized that the Mun would never be plentiful again and that their fishing heritage continued for generations would have to end, they got together again and demanded plots of land from the government so they could turn to agriculture for their livelihood. A 1997 approval of compensation for the villagers was revoked by the Chuan government.On March 23, 1999, villagers returned to demonstrations. A year has gone by and their fight continues.
 
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Ten Years' Fighting for the Mun River | Leatherback Turtles Return | Sikkim and Years of Change on the Himalayan Ridges
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