The government has officially abandoned a controversial plan to blast rapids on the Mekong river in Chiang Mai province. The Chinese-led dredging and blasting plan, initiated in 2001, met with fierce opposition from locals and environmental groups, and the Cabinet agreed to scrap it at a weekly meeting on Tuesday.
The plan was to enable ships to carry goods from China’s landlocked southern Yunnan province to ports in Thailand and Laos. It was highly opposed by conservationists and communities living along the river, who feared it would harm the environment and only benefit China. A deputy government spokewoman told Reuters:
“The communities affected and non-profit groups were against the plan. Above all fearing it would affect the way of life, and China also had no funding for it … so we ended the project. It didn’t take off yet. We were only doing environmental and social impact assessments”
The Chinese embassy in Bangkok was not available for comment.
A Thai cabinet document said that China had informed involved countries last year that it would not pursue the project, but work had continued along stretches of the river in Laos and Myanmar.
“China’s mistreatment of the Mekong, and its control of upstream water supplies, already shows the problem. Treating the mother of rivers like an international canal is no way to conserve and protect the environment, fishing and Thai people’s traditional lifestyle.”
China’s dams on the Mekong have also become controversial, especially since China revealed it was testing equipment in the river’s upper reaches. Thai farmers say they have collapsed fish stocks.
The Mekong is the world’s 12th longest river. It stretches 4,350 kilometres from China, where it’s known as the Lancang river, through five southeast Asian countries, to Vietnam in the south. It hosts at least 270 species of fish.
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