BANGKOK (AlertNet) – Sompong Viengchan is shown standing in front of a long, narrow concrete water channel on a steep slope beside the Pak Mun hydropower dam in northern Thailand, on a tributary of the Mekong River.
The concrete fish ladder was built as an afterthought when environmentalists’ warnings about the dam’s impact on fish migration proved accurate, and formerly thriving fishing and farming villages in the area were deprived of their food and livelihood.
The ladder was a dismal failure, Sompong, a fisherwoman-turned-activist who’s been fighting against the dam for 20 years, said in “Mekong”, a new documentary on the world’s 12th longest river that was screened in Bangkok on Tuesday.
“Fish are supposed to jump up from this side to the other side but they can’t,” she said. “We told them it wouldn’t work. The fish of the Mun River are big, they can’t swim into this channel.”
The dam has been operating since 1994 but the 3,000 families affected by its construction still face difficulties today, including the disruption of fisheries, inadequate compensation and health problems, Sompong told journalists at the screening on Tuesday.