Vientiane Times, January 15, 2013
Laos has lost more than 80 square kilometres of land along the banks of the Mekong River since 1975, according to Deputy Prime Minister Mr Somsavat Lengsavad recently.
Mr Somsavat said the figure was detailed in a report by the National Committee on Borders.
The land in question has disappeared into the river due to a lack of riverbank protection along various stretches of the river.
At present, there is only limited riverbank protection along the Mekong River in Laos as it is prohibitively expensive, so large scale erosion often occurs in the rainy season when the river flows fast, and large sections of riverbank can collapse quite suddenly.
The Mekong River floods perennially during the rainy season around July and August on its way through Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam, and some years it is worse than others.
It sometimes causes serious flooding to areas adjacent to the river, inundating industrial factories, houses, schools, roads and agricultural land located along the river.
People in Sithan-tay village in Hadxaifong district say the riverbank in the village has been disappearing at a rate of between two to five metres every year since 2004.
Meanwhile, a few years ago in Vientiane, some riverbank areas eroded to the edge of the roads in Hadxaifong district but now these areas have been repaired and a river bank flood levy constructed.
Residents of the villages in these areas were happy that riverbank protection works were undertaken along this stretch of the river, but many areas still remain where there is no flood protection at all.
Mr Somsavat suggested to officials from the Ministry of Public Works and Transport it is time they started speeding up riverbank protection works along the Mekong from the north to the south of Laos.
Opposite Laos in Thailand, they have been constructing flood protection bank for a number of years now, he pointed out.
Last year, the government was afraid that the waters of the Mekong would flood Vientiane so it spent 300 billion kip to solve the problems along the river, including the construction of the riverbank levy in Hadxaifong district.
However, Mr Somsavat said the riverbank protection levy in Hadxaifong district was done quickly in order to solve a temporary problem, with large rocks dumped along the northern bank of the river.
He is afraid that this riverbank protection levy is not sustainable in the long term and may be damaged when the rainy season arrives, leading to further losses of land.
“An example of proper riverbank protection is the wall at Donchan Island in front of Chao Anou Park,” he said. “Here it has protected our land and stopped flooding in the centre of Vientiane.”
Donxao in Bokeo province is another good example of riverbank protection in the country as well, he noted, which cost US$22 million. Now there is an island which has formed at the head of Donxao, after the construction of the riverbank protection was finished.