Organized Panel Session
The Pak Mun Dam on the Mun River in Ubon Ratchathani Province, northeastern Thailand—which was partially funded by the World Bank and completed in 1994—has long been one of the most problematic and controversial hydropower dams in Southeast Asia. In particular, the dam has been heavily criticized for its environmental and social impacts, especially those related to blocking important migratory fish that move between the mainstream Mekong River and the Mun River Basin. In response, fishers, non-government organizations and academics have advocated for opening the gates of the dam, either year-round or at least at the beginning of the rainy season when the largest number of fish species migrate. The dam was opened for a full year on a trial basis in 2001-2002, and later the government decided to open the dam annually for three months, but crucially, not at the time when most fish migrate upstream from the Mekong. However, the politics and science associated with opening of the Pak Mun dam has become increasingly complex and fraught due to additional challenges that relate to the construction of new infrastructure, including irrigation dams on tributaries, and also as a result of an increasing demand for piped domestic water for urban dwellers in Ubon Ratchathani City. The development of new kinds of infrastructure is making the management of water and fish populations increasingly complex and difficult, and increasing the likelihood that migratory fish and those who depend on them will be sacrificed.