Prayut dismisses fears over Mekong rapids
PM fixed on pushing for Mekong blasting
Locals in Chang Rai who have been kicking up a fuss over the government's plans to blast rapids in the Mekong River should try harder to understand the benefits of the project, the prime minister said.
Speaking after visiting the Department of Water Resources' Mekhala Centre at the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, the premier told the press that it is important that locals are made aware of the project and that they do not just throw up objections willy-nilly.
The cabinet on Dec 27 approved the Development Plan for International Navigation on the Lancang-Mekong River (2015–2025) as a framework for facilitating and ensuring safety in water transport along the river.
The development plan includes clearing the rocky outcrops of the Mekong River for smooth passage of cargo vessels from China's Yunnan to Luang Prabang in Laos.
Locals in Chiang Rai have objected to the plans, citing disastrous environmental impacts.
The premier said that it is important to make use of existing natural resources to benefit the country while ensuring the negative impacts on the environment are minimal.
"We have to study why people oppose the project. Are they really locals living there who oppose the project or are they NGOs who will move on to [oppose] a new project after this?," he said.
"Public hearings should be held on the project. And if the people still disapprove, we will have to work again until it [the project] is approved," he said.
He stressed that it is important to make people recognise and accept the majority's voice, which is basic democracy, adding that it is not fair that a few opposing voices could stop the project.
"If we can't push the project forward, no one will get any benefit from it," he added.
The locals said that the project will strongly impact the freshwater ecology system as the rapids are breeding grounds for many species of fish, especially giant catfish.
Moreover, it will destroy local tourism as people flock to see the pristine rapids of Chiang Rai province.
They are also going to launch a campaign to raise public awareness over the need to preserve the country's rapids.