Thailand – Chiang Rai dams take toll on wildlife, farmers

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Location: Chiang Khong District, Chiang Rai Province, Thailand

Language: Thai

Voice: Natural

Duration: 00:05:52

Restrictions: A24 subscribers

Source: A24

Dateline: 04-04-2022

Storyline

The Dams in China on the Mekong River have disturbed the traditional flow of the river to downstream areas, affecting farming lands as the river water would cause much more frequent floods during the dry season. Villagers and farmers in Chiang Khong in the Chiang Rai Province, Thailand have expressed their dismay over the changes to the nature of the river, adding that it has become much more difficult for them to deal with the fluctuating nature of the river. They reported many cases whereby the river would eat their crops and containers, they said farmers are left to deal with their losses. Moreover, environmentalists said that the dry season is crucial for animals and birds to reproduce as the water would recede under normal circumstances. The dams, however, would affect this process, by releasing water into the river in the dry season, disrupting the circle and affecting the wildlife. Water fluctuation in the Mekong River also causes erosion of river banks. The Thai government has to spend US$3.5 million per kilometer to build dikes to fix the issue.

Shotlist

(Soundbite) Mr. Nipon Wuttikorn, a beansprout farmer on the Mekong River bank, Chiang Khong District, Chiang Rai Province:

“After China built the dams, water levels tend to start fluctuating. It is difficult for us if the water rises [out of the season]. In the past, water would have flown seasonally. When it’s a [wet] season, the water rises but it is no longer the case. For example, today, it’s March and April and the water levels were supposed to drop, but Chinese boats carrying freight are running. So, they release the water. If the water rises so much, this area will be flooded. We have to move to higher grounds. Sometimes, in the evening, you could easily spot containers, but they would have left the next morning. They disappeared as they were submerged in water. The last time it happened was late last year. Approximately US$300 worth of damage was sustained. It’s the costs of the containers and beansprout seeds.”

(Soundbite) Mr. Niwat Roykaew, Chiang Khong Conservation Group, Chiang Khong District, Chiang Rai Province, Thailand

“When it’s a dry season in the Mekong River, naturally, it will be dry. The ecosystem will do its job. For example, when the water recedes, there will be islands and beaches. Wildlife depends on these islands to breed and grow. Migratory birds will lay their eggs on beaches, but when dams release water [in the dry season], it floods all the birds’ eggs. This is a big issue for birds. The irregular pattern of water tides also causes the erosion of water banks. The water levels often fluctuate and it results in the soil on the banks sliding down. The river banks and houses have been damaged. Farming areas have been lost. The government has the policy to build dikes to stop the erosion of the river banks. The cost of the dike construction is approximately US$3.5 million per kilometer, eating into the national budget.”

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