Mekong and Salween Communities Rally: "Save Our Rivers"

Wednesday, August 11, 2010
Community Forum in Chiang Khong, Thailand
Community Forum in Chiang Khong, Thailand

Over 200 Thai and Burmese community and civil society representatives rallied together at a public forum in Chiang Khong, northern Thailand last weekend and called on decision-makers to protect the Mekong and Salween river basins from extensive plans for destructive hydropower development.

At the forum, fishers, women's groups and youth representatives highlighted how the rich ecosystems of the Mekong and Salween rivers and the tributaries provide them with fish, irrigation, transportation, water supply and drinking water, as well as being central to their cultural heritage. They affirmed their right to the sustainable use of these resources, which support at least 100 million people in six countries from China to Vietnam and are now threatened by plans for hydropower development.  

“We’ve learned from the devastating downstream impacts of the Upper Mekong dams in China. Dams on the upstream destroy our fish and livelihoods. Rivers and fish know no boundary,” said a community representative from northeast Thailand.  

One of the largest concerns raised at the forum was the recent plans to build 12 dams on the Mekong River’s mainstream; eight are planned in Laos, two on the Thai-Lao border, and two in Cambodia. Due to the integrated nature of the Mekong River’s ecosystems, any mainstream dam will have local and regional environmental and social consequences. Among these dams, the Xayaburi Dam in northern Laos is at the most advanced stage of planning and may seek to start the approval process within months. This project is proposed by the Thai construction company Ch. Karnchang, would be financed by Thai commercial banks, and will export almost 90% of its power to Thailand.

“Laotian villagers do not have basic information of the dam project, relocation plan, or potential negative impacts of the dam,” said Niwat Roykaew of Northern Thailand’s Chiang Khong Conservation Group, who recently visited the area that would be affected by the Xayaburi Dam. “It is important that the Thai government stop its plans to purchase electricity from Xayaburi Dam on the Mekong. Thailand has many other energy options available. We do not need to destroy the Mekong River and her heritage.”

At the forum, the community representatives agreed to write a letter to Thailand’s Prime Minister that will urge Thailand to withdraw its support for the Xayaburi Dam, and work to protect the Mekong region’s river basins.    

International Rivers is part of the Save the Mekong coalition, a group of NGOs, local people, academics, journalists and artists from the Mekong countries and around the world, which works to keep the Mekong flowing freely for present and future generations. You can show your solidarity with these community groups by joining the Save the Mekong Facebook page and leaving a message of support.