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China Closes a Stretch of the Mekong River for Rock Blasting

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China has closed a 60-kilometre section of Mekong River to all types of boats indefinitely while rock blasting is undertaken. The blasting is to widen the channel for commercial shipping operations.

Chinese authorties announced on Friday that all boat operators should avoid entering the river from Guan Lei to Ganlanpa in Yunnan.

They also also erected wires across the river to prevent boats from entering the section of the river. The section of the Mekong river has now been declared a danger zone.

Guan Lei port, however, remains open to cargo and passenger boats as usual.

As a result of the river closure, passengers travelling by boat from Chiang Rai to Jinghong in China.  They are being transferred to a bus to travel on to their destination, about 100 kilometres earlier than previously. This is according to Pakaimas Vierra, vice-president of the Chiang Rai Chamber of Commerce.

Jinghong is the main city of Xishuangbanna and is popular among Thai tourists.

Ms Pakaimas insisted the closure of the river in China would not have any serious impact on tourism or cargo transport. Because travelling on to China by car is now convenient.

In 2000, China’s plan to widen the Mekong River by blasting rocks to make it possible for a 300-ton ships to navigate the stretch between Yunnan and Luang Prabang. China encountered resistance by Thai environmentalists in Chiang Rai over the possible impact on the river’s ecosystem.

The resistance led China to move the rock-blasting further back to areas of the river situated within its territorial boundaries.

Thai’s Fighting Mekong River Rock Blasting

Environmentalists and local villagers who have been fighting for years against the planned blasting of sections of the Mekong River. The blasting for greater shipping access has called on the authorities to clarify the status of the project. The blasting project was supposed to have been cancelled following a meeting between Thai and Chinese officials 2 month ago.

The rapids on Mekong River are regarded as essential to the health of the waterway’s ecosystems. They are also the livelihoods of people living along it. The river provides habitats and feeding grounds for fish, which allow the local fishermen to earn a reliable income and guarantee food security for communities

Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai said China had agreed to bring the Mekong River blasting project to a halt after it had learned about environmental concerns.

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