In a momentous win for the Mekong River, this week the Thai Cabinet formally called for cancellation of the Lancang-Mekong Navigation Channel Improvement Project, popularly known as the Mekong “rapids-blasting” project.The cabinet decision is the culmination of decades of campaigning by Thai Mekong communities and civil society groups, aided by environmentalists, who have worked tirelessly to raise concerns over the China-led project and the future it would represent for the Mekong.
The Mekong rapids-blasting project has been on government agendas for almost twenty years. In 2000, China, Myanmar, Laos and Thailand signed the Agreement on Commercial Navigation on the Lancang-Mekong River, initiating studies to examine the feasibility and impacts of the project. The project aims to remove rapids from stretches of the Mekong River through dredging and blasting, enabling year round navigation of 500-tonne freighters between southern China’s Yunnan Province to the Thai-Lao border and on to Luang Prabang in Laos. Under this plan, the Mekong would be converted into a channelized waterway for commercial navigation. The project has since been implemented in stretches of the Mekong in China, Myanmar and along the Lao border, up to the Thai border at the Golden Triangle.