River waits for the world’s help

Bankok News
18 April 2015

A sanctuary for wildlife and sustenance, the Lower Songkhram River Basin (LSRB) in Nakhon Phanom faces man-made threats like many major ecological hubs around the country. But it’s the teasing possibility of a decision that will be made half a world away which could save it.

For centuries, the Songkhram River has provided for the residents of the upper Northeast and nurtured the ecology on which their livelihood depends.

In particular, the river’s lower section, the LSRB, forms a precious, but fragile, ecological web spanning several provinces.

Now, the life-sustaining basin is under threat, manifested in the shape of large-scale commercial farms and large dams in the adjacent Mekong River. Local residents are already feeling the brunt.

Surachai Narongsilp migrated to Tha Bo village in Si Songkhram district of Nakhon Phanom as a young man to marry his sweetheart.

Back then, in 1973, their home was blessed with the bounty of the Sonkhram River — a tributary of the mighty Mekong River that was free of dams and which runs 420 kilometers through five upper northeastern provinces.

At 61, the community leader recalls how it was easy to hunt for food or collect it from the water and the peat swamp, known in the local dialect as “Paa Boong Paa Thaam”.

“Just a short while after I arrived in the village, things started to change,” he said.

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