Further study urged before blasting starts
Biodiversity under threat, seminar told
Bangkok Post 24 May 2003 www.bangkokpost.com/News/24May2003_news25.html
The government has been urged to study the
's biodiversity before allowing the blasting of rapids to continue in the river to widen and deepen the navigation channel.
Chainarong Sretthachua, director of Southeast Asia Rivers Network (Searin), said at a seminar on biodiversity yesterday that an initial survey showed the river section targeted for clearance from southern China to Luang Prabang in Laos was rich in biodiversity.
Together with the Laotian government and the World Conservation Union (IUCN), Searin conducted a brief ecological survey from Feb 22-25 along the
and Chiang Khong and Chiang Saen in
The river section has been slated to be cleared for up to 500-tonne cargo vessels from
province. The study found 80 fish species and 70 bird species along its 100km section.
Admitting the study was too brief, Mr Chainarong said: ``It is clear the area is rich in biodiversity.
``But the study cannot tell the impact of the recent reefs clearing which was done hastily without any proper environmental impact assessment or baseline data for comparison.''
He said local villagers had complained of a rapid rise and fall of the river tide, upto one metre in a day, forcing them to use sand bags to prevent bank erosion. Searin, a fierce opponent of the project, submitted the survey results to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment on Thursday.
It also plans to submit copies of the results to the National Human Rights Commission as well as the Senate committees on environment, foreign affairs, and public participation next week.
He urged the government to take the threat to the fish population and bank erosion into account before allowing the resumption of the river clearing in December. Rapids clearing started in December last year in
The Thai government last month ordered the clearing activities suspended for fear a change in the river course would affect the Thai-Lao border demarcation.
Nirawan Pipitsombat, a senior official at the Office of Natural Resources and Environment Policy and Planning (ONREPP) who oversees wetland and river management, said the cabinet had ordered another environmental impact assessment study to be conducted.