A medical doctor in Chiang Rai uses his drone to show how the Mekong will be changed forever if the plan to blast the rapids becomes a reality
The rocky shoals and rapids of the Mekong River are magnificent when viewed close to, but seen from the air they make a meaningful statement about the greatness of this river that rises in the Tibetan plateau and winds its way through China, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam.
It is this statement that medical doctor and keen environmentalist Sommai Eiawpradit is attempting to spread as he continues his photography of the mighty Mekong from the perspective of a drone and shares them with hundreds of others on the social media.
“My intention is to let other people see what I have photographed with my drone so they realise how beautiful and significant the Mekong River rapids really are,” says Sommai, a medical professional in Chiang Rai’s Chiang Khong District.
Sommai has always spent his time off capturing shots of his adopted town. And two years ago, when drone technology became cheaper and more readily available, he was quick to learn how to use one.
The technology, he says, has greatly improved his photographic skills and the resulting images can be used to campaign against the rapids blasting plan.
“I want the authorities to reconsider their decision to demolish the rapids, because once the rapids are gone, they can never be brought back. They will be gone forever together with the ecosystem and the way of life of the people who depend on them,” he says.
Sommai uses his private Facebook wall to share his photos both with his friends and the general public. The pictures have been well received by netizens and have been shared more than 349 times.
He has also given the collection to the local environmentalist group “Hak Chiang Khong” (“Love Chiang Khong”) for use in their campaign.
“This is only the first set of pictures of the Mekong River rapids. I am planning to use the drone to capture photos of all the rapids and features of the river in all three districts of Chiang Rai through which the Mekong flows. This month, I will send the drone up above the Kaeng Pha Dai rapids in Wiang Kaen District, which is also on the demolition list,” he says.
Sommai admits he is against the river navigation route improvement plan as a whole, pointing out that the profits earned from the project cannot compare to the losses that will be suffered by the local people and ecosystem of Mekong River once the project is completed.
“Removing the rapids means the complex ecosystem and traditional livelihood of the local people will disappear too. This is the most prominent side effect of this controversial project,” he explains
“With the rapids are gone, the river will lose its beauty forever. The river channel will also change and the boundary between Thailand and Laos will move. From the images the drone has taken, it’s obvious the border change will not be in our favour.
“Before making a decision to change the river forever, the governments of the countries through which the Mekong River flows should consider other options for transportation such as roads and railway.
“Of course river transportation is the cheapest option for Chinese merchants to transport their goods to the countries downstream but the damages from the project will be very expensive for the people, who depend on this river too,” he warns.