Illegal sand mining has been an ongoing issue in Thailand’s section of the Mekong River due to fragmented governance and “influential people.”
Crowds of locals and tourists are drawn to Had Hae – a sandy beach that emerges when the level of the Mekong River falls in That Phanom district in Thailand’s northeast Nakhon Phanom province, which borders Laos.
The beach, which looks like an island in the middle of the river, is filled with visitors and local people’s makeshift stalls selling food and other goods during the summer.
Banana boats, swimming rings and jet skis are also available for rent.
This is not only a patch of sand for tourists and residents, but a medium of pleasure and a source of income in the landlocked northeastern region of Thailand.
“The beach is an important part of our community. Local people will set up temporary shops and festival grounds on the beach to celebrate the Songkran Festival (Thai New Year), which happens every summer,” said Phisaksan Senorit, the Deputy Mayor of Nam Kam municipality, which oversees the area.
However, in the past few years, residents have noticed that Had Hae has shrunk, and they fear it will soon disappear, along with the festive culture developed around the sand and water.
Had Hae is formed by a load of sediment carried by the Mekong River, which runs nearly 5,000-kilometers from China’s Tibetan Plateau to the Mekong Delta in Vietnam.
It is submerged during the rainy season and fills with sediments, then reappears in the summer – a natural cycle of sediment flows that creates and maintains islands and sandy beaches in the river, as well as sustaining the cultural activities of local communities.
But this cycle has been changing in the past decade due to rapid development in the upper and lower Mekong River basin…