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July 31, 2002

Gen. Chavalit Yongchaiyudh
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense
Royal Thai Government
Government House
Nakhon Pathom Road
Bangkok 10300
Thailand

Dear Gen. Chavalit Yongchaiyudh,

We, the undersigned 76 organizations from 25 countries, are deeply concerned about the potential impacts of the Lancang-Mekong Navigation Channel Improvement Project and are concerned that the project is proceeding without a thorough and careful examination of its impacts on the environment and people's livelihoods.

As you are well aware, the Mekong River is a complex and rich ecosystem upon which millions of people depend for their livelihoods. Many have adapted to the river's ebbs and flows relying on the river's diverse and vibrant fisheries, cultivating vegetables on the riverbanks and using the river for transport and drinking water. However, this delicate balance is in jeopardy due to blasting and dredging for the Lancang-Mekong Navigation

Channel Improvement Project.

Poor environmental impact assessment, local opposition

Despite its potentially far-reaching impacts, the navigation project is proceeding without a comprehensive investigation of the project's social and environmental impacts. A recent article in the Cambodian Daily stated that the environmental impact assessment was “not up to international standards.” The project also fails to meet Thai legal standards on environmental impact studies and public participation, in violation of the agreement between China, Burma, Laos and Thailand. Villagers from Chiang Khong, Thailand, have expressed concerns about the project's potential impacts. Senators from Thailand have also voiced reservations and called for serious and careful study of the project's environmental impacts.

Destruction of rapids, reefs and shoals

The most serious impact of the project is the blasting and clearance of many rapids, shoals and scattered reefs to facilitate navigation. The destruction and blasting will have wide-ranging ecological impacts on countries located along the entire length of the Mekong. Rapids and reefs comprise some of the most productive riverine habitats, serving as vital breeding grounds and safe haven for fish and other forms of aquatic life, including plants such as Mekong seaweed (kai). Blasting the rapids and reefs could jeopardize the survival of rare species such as the Mekong giant catfish, which spawns in the rapids. The reefs also play an important role in producing oxygen, reducing pollution and aiding in decomposition of vegetation. Because of their high productivity, islets and rapids are a source of food and income for small fishermen who rely on the river for their livelihoods.

Destruction of the rapids and dredging of the river channel may also have serious impacts on water flow, impacting people who live along the banks of the Mekong and have adapted to the river's flood-drought cycle. Without the rapids, the river may flow faster, eroding the riverbanks and damaging riverside plantations.

Impacts on Cambodia and Vietnam

While the navigation project directly affects people living in China, Burma, Laos and Thailand, it is also likely to have far-reaching impacts on people in downstream countries. Cambodian and Vietnamese officials have raised concerns that fewer reefs upstream could change the flow of water into their countries, posing problems for farming and other activities. The project could also affect fisheries by destroying spawning grounds for fish that live in Cambodia and Vietnam but migrate upriver to lay their eggs. Despite these potential impacts, people in Cambodia and Vietnam have not been consulted.

Surveys in Thailand an indicator of potential impacts

Recent surveys have documented that rapids, shoals and reefs in Thailand that are supposed to be destroyed for the navigation project are crucial for the subsistence livelihoods of local people. The surveys are an indicator of the likely impacts that the navigation project will cause all along the river. The studies have found that local people from Chiang Saen to Chiang Khong rely on riverine plants, such as Mekong seaweed, that grow in the rapids for food and income. The plants, sand dunes, whirlpools and small swamps provide vital spawning ground for Mekong fishes, including the endangered Mekong giant catfish. Blasting of the rapids would destroy important fish habitat and threaten the income and food security of villagers living in the area.

Further, villagers living in Huai Luk-Waing Kaen, Thailand, will lose their common customary lands without compensation due to dredging of the shoal. Fishermen in Chiang Saen can no longer use traditional fishing boats due to waves created by large ships. Last summer, the number of fish caught by fishermen along the Thai-Lao border also decreased because implementation of the project altered water levels and currents in the Mekong.

Call for halt to project until studies completed

Given the impacts outlined above, we respectfully urge the Chinese, Lao, Myanmar and Thai governments to stop all work on the Lancang-Mekong Navigation Channel Improvement Project immediately and ensure that comprehensive environmental and social impact assessments are conducted that will examine potential impacts along the Mekong, from China downstream to Cambodia and Vietnam. These assessments should be carried out in a transparent and participatory process by a study team selected by government officials, villagers who will be affected by this project and civil society organizations in the Mekong region. The health and vitality of the Mekong River and the lives of those who depend on it deserve nothing less.

Thank you for your attention.

Sincerely,

 

Chainarong Sretthachau

Southeast Asia Rivers Network, Thailand

 

Cc:      Mr. Wan Muhamad Noor Matha, Minister of Transport and Communications, the Kingdom of Thailand

Mr. Bouathong Vongrokham, Minister of Communication, Transport, Post and Construction, Lao People's Democratic Republic

Mr. Huang Zhendong, Minister of Communications, People's Republic of China

Maj. Gen. Hla Myint Swe, Minister of Transport, Union of Myanmar

H.E. Mr Khy Tainglim, Minister of Public Works and Transport, Cambodia and

Chairman, Cambodia National Mekong Committee.

Mr Le Huy Ngo, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Vietnam and Chairman, Vietnam National Mekong Committee.

Mr. Joern Kristensen, Chief Executive Officer, Mekong River Commission

 

ORGANIZATIONAL ENDORSEMENTS

This letter is also endorsed by the following 75 organizations in 25 countries.

ARGENTINA

Elba Stancich, Taller Ecologista

AUSTRALIA

Trevor Edmond, Friends of the National League for Democracy, Australia

BRAZIL

Mauricio Galinkin, Fundação CEBRAC

CAMBODIA

Vong Sarinda, Australian Catholic Relief

Malena Karlsson, Culture and Environment Preservation Association

Sithirith Mak, Fisheries Action Coalition Team

Patrick T. Evans, Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations - Cambodia

Lars-Erik Mackhé, Forum Syd

Joe Heffernan, Indochina Elephant Conservation Programme, FFI Cambodia office

Chhit Sam Ath, International Cooperation Development and Solidarity

Amanda Bradley, Mlup Baitong

Ea Sophy and Russell Peterson, NGO Forum on Cambodia

Kelly Brooks, Oxfam Mekong Initiative

Chan Puthy, Pact Cambodia

Solinn Lim, Save Cambodia's Wildlife

Kim Sangha, Sesan River Protection Network Project

Pete Davidson, Wildlife Conservation Society Cambodia Programme

CHINA

Bruce Van Voorhis, Asian Human Rights Commission, Hong Kong, SAR

CYPRUS

Hugh A. Buck, Ceva Animal Health

DENMARK

Secretariat, The United Peoples

FRANCE

Chansamone Voravong, Laotian Organization of Resources Edified for Cooperation (OLREC)

INDIA

Medha Patkar and M.K.Sukumar, Narmada Bachao Andolan

Ashish Fernandes, Sanctuary Asia

INDONESIA

Arianto Sangaji, Yayasan Tanah Merdeka

ITALY

Jaroslava Colajacomo, Campagna per la riforma della banca mondiale

Elvira Dizon, Franciscan Mission Office

JAPAN

Tetsu Hakoda and Yuki Akimoto, FBC Japanese Service Center

Ikuko Matsumoto, Friends of the Earth Japan

Satoru Matsumoto, Mekong Watch Japan

Okada Kazyuyoshi, Sagami River Camp in Symposium

KOREA

Ik-Bae Kim and Chang-shik Moon, Korean Federation for Environmental Movement

MALAYSIA

Thomas Jalong, Friends of the Earth Malaysia

MOZAMBIQUE

Domenico Liuzzi, Kulima

MYANMAR

Maung Maung, Karenni Evergreen, Karenni

NETHERLANDS

Wiert Wiertsema, Both ENDS

PAKISTAN

Naeem Iqbal, Pakistan Network of Rivers Dams and People

PHILIPPINES

Joan Carling, Chairperson, Cordillera Peoples Alliance

Frances Q. Quimpo, Kalikasan – People's Network for the Environment

SINGAPORE

Trixie Tan, Nature Society

SOUTH AFRICA

Liane Greeff, Environmental Monitoring Group

THAILAND

Prasittiporn Kan-Onsri, Friends of the People

Praijit Silarak, Assembly of the Poor

Uthai Treesucon, Bird Conservation Society of Thailand

Tara Buakamsri, Greenpeace Southeast Asia

Steve Thompson, Images Asia

Hsao Tai, Shan Sapawa Environmental Organization

Hannarong Yaowaloes, Wildlife Fund Thailand

Ike Suriwong, Youth in Action

Patcharee & Kamol Komolphalin, Nature Trails
Somkid Mahissaya, Thai Volunteer Service ( TVS )

Taweekiat Prasertcharoensuk, Promotion of Human Resources for Community Development Foundation

Watcharee Paoleungtong, Alternative Energy Project for Sustainability 

Dr. Saranarat Kanjanavanit, Green World Foundation

Friends Without Borders

UK

Sean Scannell, Ilisu Dam Campaign

Brian Sykes, Oriental Bird Club

Chris Woodford, UK Rivers Network

URUGUAY

Teresa Perez, World Rainforest Movement

US

Ken MacLean, EarthRights International

Dan Silver, Endangered Habitats League

Aung Din and Dan Beeton, Free Burma Coalition

Manojkumar Saranathan, Subramanya Sastry, Friends of River Narmada

Paula Palmer, Global Response

Jamie Newlin, Green Democracy Project

Heather Mansfield, International Development Exchange

Susanne Wong, International Rivers Network

Barbara Warner, Marion County Water Watch

Phat Tran, For Mekong River (formerly Mekong Forum)

Sage D. Remington, Native Environmental Justice Advocacy Fund

Diana Bohn, Nicaragua Center for Community Action

Bang Yung, Pan Kachin Development Society

Marty Bergoffen, Southern Appalachian Biodiversity Project

Ray Frost, Southern Ute Grassroots Organization

Kevin Bixby, Southwest Environmental Center

Penny Lind, Umpqua Watersheds

INDIVIDUAL ENDORSEMENTS

Institutional affiliations listed for identification purposes only.

Horrie Poussard, Consultant, Natural Resource Management and Agriculture, Australia

Leng Chacrya, MRC/GTZ-SMRP (Sustainable Management of Resources in the Lower Mekong Basin Project), Cambodia

John Black, Biological Sciences, Brock University, Canada

William Robichaud, Centre for Biodiversity Research, Department of Zoology, University of British Columbia, Canada

Liesbeth Sluiter, Author of “The Mekong Currency,” Netherlands

Dr. Manee Archawaranon, Department of Biology, Faculty of Science, Ramkhamhaeng University, Thailand

Chaiyan Kasorndorkbua, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Kasetsart University, Thailand and College of Veterinary Medicine, Iowa State University, US

Philip D. Round, Department of Biology, Faculty of Science, Mahidol University, Thailand

Dr J. T. R. Sharrock, Editor, journalist and wildlife consultant, UK

Chin-ju Lin, University of Essex, UK

W.R. Max Niedzwiecki, Ph.D., Director of Programs and Resource Development, Southeast Asia Resource Action Center, US

Guy R. Lanza, Professor of Microbiology and Director, Environmental Sciences Program

University of Massachusetts, Amherst, US

Piseth Vann, Heller School for Social Policy and Management, Brandeis University, US

Dr. Dao Trong Hung , Institute of Ecology and Biological Resources (IEBR), Vietnam National Center for Natural Science and Technology (NCST), Vietnam

Nga Dao, Researcher, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Vietnam

Ian Grange, Faculty of Environment and Resource Studies, Mahidol University, Salaya, Nakhon Phatom, Thailand


 
 

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