By Bangkok Post
Bangkok, Thailand, January 4, 2017
The Prayut Chan-o-cha government made an out-of-the-blue decision that paves the way for the demolition of the Mekong River’s rocky outcrops for the sake of “improved waterway navigation”.
The justification offered is both weak and unjustified. The public was neither consulted nor informed while the well-being of the ecology of the world’s tenth longest river is at risk. And the party gaining the most significant trade benefits will obviously be China.
The river is a lifeline of over 60 million people in the lower Mekong basin who depend on its abundant resources, especially fish, as sources for their livelihoods. For thousands of years, the river has carried passenger boats and cargo ships from China’s Yunnan province through to Myanmar, Laos and Thailand. Cambodia and Vietnam also rely on the river for commercial transportation.
Some parts of the river are smooth for navigation. Many of its shallow and turbulent stretches are not. Rocky outcrops have made transportation along those stretches difficult and dangerous. But most Mekong captains, with knowledge passed along by their predecessors, are experienced and know how to safely manoeuvre their boats. They can live with the rocky river beds.
But the cabinet on Tuesday saw these natural outcrops as a threat to commercial navigation and thus agreed “in principle” with the plan to dredge the river and demolish the rocky outcrops.
This decision is little different from allowing the demolition of a seabed to make ferry transport easier. It is also not different from allowing the destruction of a mountain to build a road. It’s a top-level decision that is less inclined to live with nature than destroy it.
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Photo credit: http://vexploretours.com/thailand-cruises/isaan-north-eastern-thailand-mekong-cruise/