By Tran Thi Thuy Binh
Loei province, Thailand, August 31, 2016
Ban Klang village in Chiang Khan District, Loei province, Thailand is located next to the Mekong River near the border between Laos and Thailand. Living there are more than 300 households, in a village that will disappear if Thailand builds the planned Khong-Loei-Chi-Mun water diversion project. The leader of Ban Klang village Mr Tanusil Inda said that local people don’t understand why we need this water diversion project. In fact, they have not needed to use the water from the Mekong River since their irrigation water comes from rain and water wells. Local people are concerned about the risks the project will cause for their lives such as: homes flooded, fish populations and crops declining, and village resettlement.
In the consultation meeting the Thai Royal Irrigation Department representative (RID) held with the village, the village chief of Ban Klang asked questions about the diversion project but received only general answers. Because of the lack of information from the meeting with RID, people in Ban Klang village decided not to move out even though the project has progressed. They are determined to fight to the end to protect the land for future generations. They hang many signs outside their houses to oppose the Klong-Chi-Mun project. According to the assessment of Prof. Kanokwan Manorom, Director of GMSSRC, Ubon Ratchathani University, he doubts the effectiveness of this project and thinks that Thai agricultural does not need such a water diversion project.
Mekong River is a natural border between Thailand and Laos. Credit: Hanoi TV
It could be seen that the water diversion project also impacts the border of Laos and Thailand. As the Mekong River separates Laos and Thailand, landslides cause more land to be swallowed by the river and causes a narrowing of the Thai border. Due to years of landslides, people cannot grow crops. In the dry season, people can walk across the river and villagers along the river can no longer bathe.
In addition, fishermen who rely on the Mekong River also found the risk that declining fish stocks will fall even further. Mr Wachira Nantaporn, a 49-year-old fisherman said.”10 years ago we could catch 40-50 fish per day. Now it’s only 6-10 per day.”
Protest signs in opposition to the Kong – Loei – Chi – Mun project can be seen around the area. Credit: Hanoi TV
One female fisher of Chiang Khan is also afraid that the dam will prevent the migration of fish from upstream. The number of fishers in Chiang Khan has also declined up to 90%. According to the fishers’ experience, many people believe that the water diversion project threatens biodiversity under and on the water, as well as fish populations.
The local people worry what will happen. After a field trip in Ban Klang organized by Mekong Matters Journalism Network, Lawyer Sor Rattanamanee Polkla of the Community Resource Centre – a Thai NGO – said that Ban Klang village requires more information from government about this water diversion project and should stop the project’s development until undertaking detailed environmental and social impact assessments.
This story was produced in collaboration with The Mekong Eye and Mekong Matters Journalism Network, with full editorial control to the journalist and their outlet. Translation by The Mekong Eye. See the full Vietnamese language story on HanoiTV.
Lead Photo: Ms. Saman Rueakham; the only female fisherman left in Chiang Khan, Credit: Hanoi TV