Twenty-nine youth students from four schools joined the Mekong Nature Camp and joined in cross-border conversations with Native American representatives who are protecting the Snake River tributary to the transboundary Columbia River.
July 28-29th, 2022
On July 28-29th, 2022, the ChiangKhong Conservation Group and Mekong School: Institute of Local Knowledge organized an activity for students to learn about the Mekong River’s natural environment at the Teacher’s Camp training center, Ban Hua Wiang Kosanwit School in Chiang Khong. There were 43 participants, comprising of six students from Chiang Khong Wittayakhom School, eight students from Ban Saeo Wittayakhom School, five students from Huai So Rajamangalaphisek Wittayakhom School, ten students from Ban Huai Luek School students, two teachers who are project advisors, ten staff members and volunteers from the Mekong School, and two people from the VOCAB Phu Sang group recreation team, Phayao Province.
Student groups from all four schools have been selected and volunteered to join the project from the activity of the elders mentoring children to draw dreams about the past and the future, and have been further trained through the Mekong Dam Monitor workshop. The students have subsequently developed project-based learning on rivers and streams near their home and school. Coming to the camp this time, the goal was to monitor the progress of the Mekong River Education Project-Based Learning Project of the students in 4 schools.
The students also reviewed their use of water quality measurement tools to measure Nitrogen, Phosphate, and Potassium in the water, to measure sediments, and to empower students to apply their knowledge to further develop and improve their skills in order to produce projects that meet their goals going forward.
This time, the Mekong Nature Camp has strengthened its potential by using a mobile application to record the results of water measurements, and there was a presentation of the sample results from which some groups of students have previously recorded the values from the field to see as a graph so that they can visualize the changes.
In addition, the students took a boat trip to explore the Mekong River and measured the water quality at three points. This activity enabled the students to become more familiar with measuring instruments, as well as the process of recording the results in the application. In this activity, each group divided their duties so that everyone was able to practice. After returning from the boats, Khru Tee (Niwat Roykaew, chairman of the Chiang Khong Conservation Group and the Mekong School) invited young students to connect themselves with the environment, because the changes in today’s world are all related. Damage to the environment has no borders. Moreover, everyone in the world is a part of nature, and as citizens of the world, we must protect the environment and be very aware of these matters.
Later, the youth visited the old picture exhibition of Chiang Khong at Bak Pier with Mr. Thanwa Liampan, the President of the Chiang Khong District Cultural Council. He described the story of Chiang Khong’s past through old pictures that depict the way of life in the era of the ancestors that remain important to the present. It is an old city with an interesting history that must be preserved.
Subsequently, the youth went to explore and learn in Ban Muang Chum’s Wetland Forest, Tambon Ban Krueng, Amphur Chiang Khong, Chiang Rai. This forest has an area of 500 rai (nearly 200 acres) adjacent to the Ing River, which is a tributary of the Mekong River. This is known locally as an area with natural biodiversity, but the impact of large-scale development projects (dams) has led to problems. The fertility of the area was lost, and fish cannot swim up river to spawn in the wet season anymore. This area is very important to the life of the people in the community.
Muang Chum people have stood up and fought to protect the forest from destruction, which demonstrates the strength and tenacity of the villagers. For this, they received the Green Globe Award from PTT Public Company Limited in 2010 and 2018. More importantly, the villagers are able to receive the returns of the biodiversity in the forest. The forest is considered to provide food security for Ban Muang Chum as the community forest. After the hike, the youth reflected on the learning outcomes from Ban Muang Chum through the “Body Scan activity”, where they identified what the eye sees and what their heart felt after returning from the forest. The youths were able to identify the benefits of the activity to each other in detail and had fun doing so.
On the morning of July 29th, 2022, the group got an early start with an exchange of experiences between the peoples who defend the Snake River tributary of the Columbia River basin in the Northwest of USA, and the peoples who defend the Mekong River, in an online cross-border discussion led by Julian Matthews, from the Nimiipuu Protecting the Environment organization and with Khru Tee, from Chiang Khong Conservation Group. The youth joined the discussion and exchanged with Andrew Stone, a volunteer working in both basins who has assisted in coordinating and conducting this exchange. They hope to exchange cross-border dialogue again between the Mekong River youth and the Snake River youth in the future.
When the youth came back to learn from the forest area, the Mekong Nature Camp was honored by Lecturer Tikumporn Rodkhunmuang, from the Faculty of Law at Mae Fah Luang University. He invited the youth to think about children’s rights to protect the environment by asking the question “Rivers have rights, but who claims rights to the river?”. He added information on river laws from the United Nations, ASEAN, Mekong region, and the national level. Although it is a matter of law and rights, the teacher’s discussion with the students was lively and fun.
The Mekong Youth Program received support for educational activities to monitor the health of the Mekong River from the US Embassy in Bangkok.