On the 12 of December 2012, the Thailand National Working Group, Mekong Water Dialogues, visited Ranong Province in the South of Thailand to talk to local communities and to witness, first hand, the impacts of dredging on the local ecosystem and communities.
In the morning the NWG participated in a community forum where were over 45 community members attended. The community forum aimed to establish a platform where the community could discuss the impacts of dredging, their fears for their environment and their future vision for their environment.
The community explained that they have witnessed many changes to their environment due to the dredging. Many downstream areas now have serious sedimentation, erosion issues and experience frequent flash flooding. The loss of the endemic Thai Water Onion has also caused a lot of problems. A community leader explained that the Thai Water Onion provided critical habitat to native fish and other aquatic species. Without the Water Onion many aquatic species have disappeared and community can no longer rely on the rivers and canals for food security. One of the main issues identified by the community was that dredging activities happen very quickly with little to no community consultation. This left the community with very little influence over what happened to their environment.
The NWG then visited a number of field sites to gain a better understanding of the impacts on the environment and the community. It was clear to the NWG that:
- dredging occurs throughout the Ranong province
- it is negatively impacting the community, their environment and causing the decline of the endangered Thai Water Onion.
- the local community are working together to try and protect the remaining habitat for Thai Water Onions; but
- despite their efforts the Thai Water Onion continues to disappear from the local landscape.
The local communities have called for dredging to be stopped and for the government to consult with the community prior to the implementation of flood or water management activities. It is the communities hope that if dredging stops they can work together with NGOs, academics and the government to restore their aquatic areas and therefore protect the Thai Water Onions and ensure livelihood and food security for future generations.
By Teigan Allen