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Studying gate openings in Thailand

THREE STUDIES HAVE FOUND that opening the gates of the Pak Moon dam in Thailand during the past year has increased fish species in the Mool river and reduced poverty among local residents. One of the studies also suggested that the region around the dam, in Ubon Rathathani province in the northeast, would suffer no serious power cuts even if electricity from the dam were cut off. Environmental groups have said the studies indicated the dam’s gates should be left permanently in the open position.

The dam’s owner – the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT) — rejected the suggestion, claiming the studies were not scientific, and closed the gates on 16 June. An EGAT spokesperson said the opening of the gates had affected power production, and the agency was forced to buy power from Huay Hoh dam in Laos to cope with rising demand. With the gates open, the agency had also lost storage opportunities to use water for making power. Last year in July, in an attempt to put an end to the long-running controversy over the dam, Thai government ordered the dam gates to be opened for a year.

The three studies were presented at a public forum organised by Chulalongkorn University’s Social Development Studies Centre.