By Mingkhawan Thuemor, Decha Khambaomueang, and Tipakson Manpati

Drastic ecological change of the Mekong River is linked with hydropower development. Water fluctuations due to operation of upstream dams affects various fish species and stock has declined. 

We visited two communities located along the Mekong. The first is in Chiang Khan District, Loei Province that borders Laos and is the nearest downstream area in Thailand to the Xayaburi Dam, completed in 2019. It is the first dam in the lower mainstream of the Mekong. The second community is Tamun in Ubon Ratchathani,  the last province in Thailand the Mekong passes before going into Lao territory. 

It is evident that both communities are struggling to make a living from the natural resources provided by the Mekong, particularly in fish which has been their main protein source as well as source of income. 

It is suggested that sustainable management of the Mekong River must be inclusive and involve local people’s voices. New, proposed dams on the Mekong are under scrutiny to see if they are necessary or not at a time when better energy solutions exist such as solar, wind, and biomass.

Regional water governance is needed to ensure community rights and an equitable pathway for the people of the Mekong, especially for those who depend directly on this transboundary, shared, and common resource.