This week I'm off to Ubon Ratchathani, Thailand's eastern-most province bordering both Laos and Cambodia. The purpose of the trip is to pick up fish from colleagues at Ubon Ratchathani University which were collected for an ongoing project on fish migration in the Mun River.
While in Ubon I had the chance to visit Pha Taem National Park, where a series of 3,000 year old cliff paintings show just how important the Mekong River, and the fish therein, have been to local cultures throughout the region's history.
I also had the chance to revisit Pak Mun Dam, this time in rainy season, when the flood gates are opened to allow fish migrating upstream to spawn to move into the Mun River. The dam, completed in 1996, dramatically affected upstream fish stocks and sparked strong protests both during and after its construction. To appease affected fishermen and those concerned about the environmental impacts of the project, the government has compromised by opening the flood gates during four months of each year to allow fish migration and reproduction and improve upstream fish catches. In a global review of the impacts of dams around the world published in 2000, the World Commission on Dams named the Pak Mun Dam the worst dam constructed at the time due to the myriad social, economic, and environmental impacts associated with the project. Our research is aiming to look at the current state of fish movement within the Mun River basin as well as the size and composition of catches by villagers in the region. For more photos from Ubon and the surrounding area, check out the gallery below.