No authority to prevent new Mekong River projects: MRC

THE MEKONG RIVER Commission (MRC) does not have the authority to stop projects even if they have transboundary effects, delegates to the fourth Green Mekong Forum said on Monday, while the Thai Irrigation Department presented a water diversion project to fight poverty.

Around 100 delegates from Mekong River countries and international observers attended the forum in Bangkok to follow the latest developments in infrastructure and water resource management in the Mekong River Region.

Don Sahong vs Dolphins: How the Dam Is Affecting Local Residents

Dam Chan handed over the food in exchange for riel as she described hearing the loud bangs of dynamite in the distance.

The 55-year-old has farmed and sold food in Preah Rumkel commune her entire life and is concerned about the future of her home now that construction on the nearby Don Sahong Hydropower Dam has started to affect the local wildlife, and subsequently the lives of those residing near the Lao border.

“Slow Death” of the Mekong Delta

Kaeng Khut Khu is a village in Loei province, Thailand. This village is located along the Mekong river and fishing is the main income of local people. But in recent years, it’s very difficult for local people go to fishing as the water levels go up and down constantly. Besides, the fish are very small now. There aren’t as many big fish as in the past.

In addition it is known that this village is also attractive for camping along the Mekong River. But now no tourists want to go there for camping as the water levels of the river could increase suddenly and cause flooding and impacts to tourism development. So now the local people of this village cannot get income from fishing and tourism. They have to find another job such as worker or seller.

Mekong dam projects ‘could destroy livelihoods, ecology’

THE ECOLOGY of the Mekong River could be destroyed within 10 years if dam projects along the river are allowed to continue, Thai and Cambodian non-government organisations have warned.

They have also warned that it will be very difficult for people to claim compensation for projects’ negative impacts on the environment and their livelihoods because it will be not difficult if not impossible to clearly link the effects to a particular dam.

The water conflict on the Mekong

Ban Klang is a 400-year old village in Chiang Khan district, Loei province, Thailand. The village, home to more than 1,000 residents, is located next to Loei’s river mouth, connecting the tributary to mainstream of the Mekong River. The village is famous as a peaceful destination for tourists.

However, upon entering Ban Klang in recent times, visitors are surprised to notice banners hanging in-front of residents’ houses throughout the town, declaring “No Si Song Rak water gate here” and “Ban Klang residents do not need Si Song Rak water gate.” These are just examples of the rising water conflict in the Mekong region.

Diverting the Mekong River into Thailand: The Khong-Loei-Chi-Mun project

Extensive irrigated agriculture in Northeast Thailand has long been a dream of the Royal Irrigation Department (RID). Over the decades, various visions have been expounded but never fulfilled, including the Green Isan Project in the early 1980s, the Khong-Chi-Mun Project in the late 1980s and 1990s, and the Water Grid Project in the early 2000s. Local communities and civil society have often challenged these projects, questioning the project’s economics and potential environmental and social impacts.

Recently, the RID has reinvigorated its irrigation plans through the “Mekong-Loei-Chi-Mun River Management and Diversion by Gravity in the Northeast” project. It entails diverting water from the Mekong River’s mainstream into the Loei River in Northeastern Thailand, which would then be connected via tunnels to the Chi and Mun Rivers.

Mekong Drought and Water War

Klang Village is located next to Loei river of Loei province, Thailand. In this area, there will be a project name Kong – Loei- Chi-Mun. This project aims to storage water for Thailand by dredging the Loei River further 5m deeply and spreading 250m wide of Loei estuaries. In addition, around 24 tunnels will be constructed at the bottom of the Loei river so there will more water volume from Mekong river flowing into Loei river, then to Chi and Mun river that help keep water for dry season in Thailand.

The head of Klang Village, Ms Sorarat Kaeswsa worried that if the river bottom is dredged, then there will be no fish anymore for their livelihoods. For many years their life has been based on this Loei river. The project director with the Thailand irrigation department, Ms Chawee Wongprasittiporn, said that the project will construct 1 to 2 tunnels first to see how water flows from the Mekong River to Loei River. Then they will decide about continuing construction or revising the plan.

Why the Mekong River is Asia’s next big investment locale

Japan recently announced a three-year, $7 billion investment deal to improve the infrastructure of the lower Mekong River region. This deal is a move to offset China’s growing economic influence within the region. Furthermore, because of geopolitical reasons, it will be beneficial to Japanese investors who may be dissuaded from other regions, such as Russia.

A Thirsty Mekong Delta

Located at the end of the Mekong River basin, the Mekong Delta in Vietnam is currently experiencing the most severe drought and salinity intrusion in 100 years.

According to experts, the principal reason is development activities in GMS countries related to the use of the Mekong River’s water resources, including the operation and construction of mega-dams along the river as well as water diversion for agricultural purposes.