Mekong Rapids Blasting

The “Upper Mekong Navigation Improvement Project” or “rapids blasting project”, as dubbed by local groups, is one of the most controversial projects in the Mekong River. It involves the blasting of various rapids and rocks and dredging of channels to facilitate all year round navigation of large commercial vessels along the Mekong River stretching from Yunnan in southwest China to Luang Prabang in northern Laos. China is the principal actor promoting, funding and carrying out the project, which was given the green light after Burma, Thailand and Laos signed an agreement endorsing the project in 2000.

In 2001 the project EIA, based on two days of fieldwork, concluded there would be no long term impacts on fisheries and fishing-based livelihoods of communities living along the river in Laos and Thailand. Concerns over the project’s adverse impacts and the quality of the EIA, resulted in an independent review that found the original EIA to be “substantively inadequate and in many places fundamentally flawed”.

The project has faced widespread opposition from various NGOs, academics and local communities, particularly in Thailand’s Chiang Khong district where the Khon Phi Long rapids were slated to be blasted. Khon Pi Long rapids and surrounding ecosystems are important habitats for numerous fish and other aquatic species which local communities rely on for food and income.

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