Some Mekong residents travelled from the Northeast to Bangkok to campaign for Mekong fish and their fishery, which are disrupted by dam operation upstream. Credit: Ormbun Thipsuna

New Mekong integrated committee proposed

The Association of Community Organisations Network in 7 Northeastern Provinces has proposed a new mechanism be introduced to address and tackle the Mekong problems, which have gone severe due to serious development on the Mekong River, whereas concerned agencies including the Agriculture and Cooperatives Ministry have agreed to push the proposal further for the government’s consideration

Ormbun Thipsuna, the association’s representative, said the association has proposed a new integrated committee to the government representatives for consideration in a hope that it can help deal with the Mekong problems as all related work could be integrated and mobilized at once to address and tackle the problems, seen as having gone severe beyond any denial now.

The association and some Mekong residents from the Northeastern provinces travelled to Bangkok and held a campaign, A March on behalf of Mekong Fish, in the city yesterday before meeting with representatives of concerned agencies including the Foreign Affairs Ministry and Agriculture Ministry.

“At the meeting, there was no argument that the Mekong is very sick now, and no one has denied this fact. The river has also battled with transboundary impacts that they too are undeniable,” said Mrs. Ormbun.

If accepted by the government, this would be the first that would see integration of work of all concerned agencies as well as contributions from civil society in addressing and tackling the Mekong issues together.

Mrs. Ormbun said this is not just about the association, but also other civil groups, which have been working on the Mekong issues, including the newly set up Mekong’s People Forum, which was pushed by a network of civil groups as well as academics working in the field late last year as a new platform for the Mekong policy making.

Unlike any previous panels, Mrs. Ormbun said the new committee is expected to look at the Mekong issues and tackle them in a holistic manner, and more importantly, with civil society’s inputs.

Alongside the proposal, the association has also proposed a sub-panel be set up under the National Fishery Committee to particularly look at the impacts of the Mekong development on local fishery and ecosystems. Compensations should be set to take care of those already affected, and early warning systems and real-time data sharing should be improved to help reduce risks, she said.

The association has also proposed closer work between Thailand and Lao PDR through coordination of the Foreign Affairs Ministry. This should then be extended to other Mekong countries, including China, Mrs. Ormbun said. The government, she added, should suspend power purchase agreements with Lao PDR for the time being, and transboundary impacts from dam projects on the Mekong should be taken into consideration before any agreements in the future are signed.

Thailand, she further pointed, should amend the environmental laws to address transboundary impacts caused by the Mekong projects so that they can help protect the country’s interests better than they are at the moment.

Alongkorn Polabutra, the Agriculture Minister’s advisor, said the meeting would forward what discussed as well as proposals to the minister for further proceedings. They are expected by the group to reach the Prime Minister, Mrs. Ormbun said.

Since early January, abnormality of the Mekong River has been locally observing and reporting by some locals living along the river. This includes the color turning phenomenon, an immediate drop in water levels, water fluctuations, and so on.

Such an abnormality has long been felt by the Mekong residents in the North and the Northeast for more than two decades, but disruptions on the river’s natural life cycle have become more evident these days as more dam are developed and in operation on the river.

The Mekong residents had been trying to raise concerns as well as impacts they experienced to concerned authorities in a hope they can help address and tackle them, but as the issues were transboundary, they were often found themselves trying in vain. In recent years, more concerned agencies have acknowledged and accepted the degree of transboundary impacts, and become more opened to work with the residents.

Late last year, the civil groups along with academics working on the Mekong issues decided to push for the Mekong People’s Forum to empower civil members so that they could mobilise policies to address the issues alongside the government.

Read: Mekong turns blue, again

Credit: MRC