14 March 2015, International Day of Action for Rivers and Against Dams
[Chiang Kong District, Chiang Rai, Thailand] Today, we are here to organize an activity to show our united effort to work for the children of the Mekong River. We, the locals, the fisher folk, the boat drivers, the farmers, and the peasants, are people whose livelihoods have always been dependent upon natural resources from the Mekong. However, we have found that our Mother Mekong has been subjected to exploitation for almost 20 years since the construction of dams on China’s upper reach of the Mekong River. Thus far, six dams have been completed.
We, the dwellers by the Mekong in three districts of Chiang Rai, namely, Chiang Saen, Chiang Kong, and Wiang Kaen, as well those in all eight riparian provinces, have witnessed changes imposed on the Mekong during the past years. Unusual water fluctuations and non-seasonal tides have brought about damage to the Mekong’s ecology, as well, as to its tributaries. The ramifications of this damage can be felt in farming by the river, fishing, transportation and in the local economy.
We stand opposed to the construction of any dam on the Mekong, in China’s upper reach or in the lower reaches, since the dams will block the river, regardless of whose jurisdiction the dam is located in, and will impact the ecology of the river, fisheries, and all human beings across the borders.
For us in Chiang Rai, apart from the Xayaburi and Don Sahong Dams which are being built or are slated to be built in the lower reach of the Mekong, we know there are attempts to push forward with more dams, particularly the Pak Beng Dam which is located not very far from the communities living along the Mekong in the three districts of Chiang Rai.
We assert our community right to manage our resources, our land, our water and our forest. Right now, all decisions regarding the Mekong have been made without the critical voices of Mekong communities. These dam projects worth hundreds of millions of dollars are subject to the arbitrary decisions made by a small handful of powerful individuals; meanwhile the impacts are borne by millions of people – as we can bear witness.
The people who live in the river basin should hold the rights to the river and the rights to collectively manage its natural resources on a sustainable basis. However this has not happened.
We, therefore, demand that the Thai government be aware of the problems facing the Mekong since it essentially involves the livelihoods of people in at least eight provinces. The government is obliged to recognize people’s rights and must allow them to participate in the conceptualization, the planning and the utilization of the river and its resources. All decisions must be made based on sound and solid information and data, and not for the purpose of seeking profit.
The Thai government and all concerned authorities must work strictly and urgently to protect the interests of the people living by the river. They should not be hesitant to act defiantly towards neighboring countries or investors if they care about the suffering of their own people. The damming of the Mekong shall invariably cause transboundary impacts.
The Mekong is the bloodline of the region. But the governments of the six Mekong countries including China, Burma, Lao, Thailand, Cambodia and Viet Nam, have ignored the problems of the Mekong Dams, which worsen every day. The existing regional mechanisms seem incapable of solving the problems. Thus, we demand the governments of the region to immediately address the issues as an urgent agenda item.
To mark today’s International Day of Action for Rivers and Against Dams, we, the sisters and brothers of the Salween, Yom, Mae Chaem-Mae Ping, Ing, Chomphu River Basins and all other basins are here to declare our conviction toward protecting the Mekong.
Stop making profits from the region’s resources. The Mekong is not for sale.