Irrigation dams threaten Thailand’s tiger forests, say conservationists

A plan to construct seven dams in one of mainland Southeast Asia’s last intact forest systems could cause widespread habitat loss and sever important wildlife corridors, activists warn.

The Dong Phayayen-Khao Yai (DPKY) Forest Complex is a vast and biodiverse region that spans six provinces in eastern Thailand. It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005 for its exceptional biodiversity but is perhaps better known as the home of one of Thailand’s two remaining breeding populations of Indochinese tigers (Panthera tigris corbetti).

The Seub Nakhasathien Foundation, a Bangkok-based NGO, says the proposed dams will harm the integrity of the DPKY forest ecosystem, placing its rich assemblage of wildlife at risk. “If every reservoir is built, there will definitely be severe impacts on the ecosystems, especially to wildlife,” Ornyupa Sangkamarn, the foundation’s head of academic affairs, told Mongabay. “A large network of natural forest ecosystems will be cut off and scattered into smaller habitats. Wildlife routes will be altered or cut off, and many plant species will be flooded.”

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Carolyn Cowan