April 20, 2017 01:00 By PRATCH RUJIVANAROM NATTAWAT LAPING THE NATION
SURVEY WORK on the Mekong River channel project officially started yesterday in Chiang Rai, and field survey by a Chinese company is expected to begin tomorrow amid strong opposition by environmentalists.
The Marine Department revealed yesterday that China’s CCCC Second Habor Consultant Co Ltd had informed the department that they would begin the survey on the Mekong River project yesterday and the work would conclude within two months.
Three Chinese survey vessels reportedly entered Thailand’s territory at the second Chiang Saen Port in Chiang Rai’s Chiang Saen District.
Liu Jian, the leader of the survey team, said they would conduct the survey at 15 locations along a 96-kilometre stretch of the Mekong River between Thailand and Laos, from the Golden Triangle to the Kaeng Pha Dai rapids.
The work is expected to take 55 days. Yesterday, all 60 Chinese members of the team passed border inspection.
The acting director of Chiang Rai Provincial Marine Department Office, Suranart Sirichok, said the team would conduct the survey in three parts – an engineering survey, a hydraulic survey, and a geological survey.
Suranart stressed that this survey was only a part of the Mekong River development study and there was no plan to blast the rapids.
Jirasak Inthayot, coordinator of the local environmentalist group Rak Chiang Khong (Love Chiang Khong), said the group demanded that the survey be cancelled and said they would closely monitor activities.
“We were informed about the survey on Tuesday, but no more details about the survey were given to the local people,” Jirasak said.
“We still stand by our demand that the survey must stop and the company must [study] the impacts to the river ecosystem and people’s livelihood from the first phase of the project before considering the worthiness of this project. [They must] weigh the possible damage to the river and people’s livelihood.”
The Mekong River Navigation Improvement Project aims to make the Mekong River navigable for large cargo ships up to 500 tonnes gross from Yunnan province in China to Luang Prabang in Laos. The first phase of the project from China down to the Golden Triangle in Thailand has already been completed.