Oh dear,more bad news for the Mekong River ecology, and ther livelihoods of poor fisher-folk that depend on it – it appears that China, Myanmar Thailand and Lao PDR have agreed on the next phase of navigation improvement (rock-blasting,
removal of shoals and rapids, dredging, removal of sand-banks – ie destruction of all the most important habitat features of the river for endangered fish, ground-nesting water birds, and river channel plants, etc) to allow 500cwt boats to be able to navigate all year round (presently only feasible for 100cwt). This is what Thai NGOs fought so hard against in 2002-2003 and won a reprieve, managing to prevent the rock-blasting in the Thai stretch of the river. At that time the army sided with the NGOs because they said the navigation works would alter the course of the river in an area where the exact border between Thailand and Laos was still under discussion. But now……………..
China and neighbor approved development of the Lancang-Mekong shipping channel to allow operations of 500 DWT cargo vessels. China, Laos, Myanmar and Thailand reached an agreement to improve the 890 km international shipping channel on the waterway at Lancang River and Mekong River, which is not hardly operational during part of the year. The canal connects Simao Port in Yunnan, China with Luang Prabang in Laos, but currently the capacity of the channel is up to 100 DWT cargo barges and during the low water levels at certain drier months of the year. After the upgrade of the shipping channel, it will become fully operational during the whole year and will allow operations of bigger ships. Moreover, the China and Thailand agreed to connect the canal with the railway infrastructure, which both countries are planning to build for improvement of the trade and export of both countries.
Lancang-Mekong shipping channel was built in 2003, which is important trade route of the Silk Road Economic Belt, as the countries around Mekong River are known. The agreement strengthen the communications and relationships between the four countries, which are building strong trade collaborations. The development of the shipping channel should follow an ecological and environment assessment, as the river is food and water source for million of people living around it.