The Chinese dams are blamed for turning gold dreams of Mekong panners into dust, especially Thailand‘s gold panners. Vijitra Duangdee, writing in South China Morning Post (SCMP) said that not only gold is disappearing but, the diets, livelihoods and environment of 60 million people have been jeopardised by the dams, and that effects are getting starker.
By the time the Mekong reaches in Loei, on the Thai-Laos border, the water gets already strained through a dozen dams – 11 of them in China and one in Laos. The dams, said locals and experts, have decimated fish habitats and changed the natural seasonal flow of the water, and even its colour, reported SCMP. ‘I used to find pieces of gold the size of a tamarind seed,’ said Rodjana Thepwong, 64, one of the gold panners from Thailand. ‘Now there are only tiny amounts’, she added.
Rodjana Thepwong said that earlier gold panners used to wade to the middle of the river in the dry season. “The sediment was full of gold, I used to find pieces the size of a tamarind seed,” she said, hacking into the river bank with a pickaxe and removing clumps of mud and stone.
“Since the dams were built the river water rises and falls randomly and the ecosystem is off balance, we have to pan on the edge of the river where there are only tiny amounts of gold,” she added.