“The Song Remains the Same”: Examining the Outcomes of Past Hydraulic Engineering and Agro-modernization Schemes in Northeast Thailand

  • David J. H. Blake
Part of the Advances in Global Change Research book series (AGLO, volume 64)


Competition for water and other natural resources in the transboundary Mekong River basin is increasing, leading to a greater propensity for conflict, at both the international and intra-national, local level. Recently, the Thai government has resurrected a decades-old plan to divert considerable volumes of water from the Mekong River into the northeast region, ostensibly for irrigation purposes, thereby re-igniting old concerns by downstream states that mainstream river flows will be reduced and water quality impaired, especially during the critical dry-season period. Such moves reinforce the impression that riparian states are increasingly exerting their sovereign rights to utilise Mekong flows in response to a perceived weakening of the legitimacy of the Mekong River Commission and in the face of a de facto rapidly expanding basin-wide hydraulic construction paradigm, most especially in China and Laos. This chapter investigates some of the historical context and socio-environmental impacts of earlier large-scale irrigation and agribusiness promotion projects, through a case study of the Nam Songkhram basin, a Mekong sub-basin with eco-hydrological attributes similar to those of Cambodia’s Tonle Sap system. It argues that critiques of past developments have not been adequately internalized by political and bureaucratic decision makers charged with water resources policy and planning, raising interesting questions about the social, economic, and ecological prospects for the latest diversionary scheme plan.


Northeast Thailand Mekong diversion Irrigation development Environmental and social impacts Nam Songkhram basin 


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© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • David J. H. Blake
    • 1
  1. 1.Independent ScholarTauntonUK

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