by Nick Upton
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Nong Bong Khai, Is it shrinking?
When creating the maps for Nong Bong Khai at Chiang Saen I used a map from an old issue of the Oriental Bird Club's bulletin, which was a photo of a map on an interpretative panel at Chiang Saen, and satelitte images from Google Earth. I noticed that the current shape of the lake was considerably different to the shape on the old map. The picture below shows the old shape in red on top of the current satelitte image.

It seems that there has been some level of encapsulation and drainage on at least some of these old "arms" of the lake from the satelitte picture. How accurate the old boundary is it is difficult to say; I suspect that it is not 100% accurate, but it does seem to indicate that the lake has undergone a certain level of shrinkage. It is possible that this old boundary delineates the boundary of the protected area and not the area of water, but I suspect that when considering the age of the old map (around 10-15 years ago) it is almost certain that there has been some encroachment into the shallows of this "Non-hunting Area".

These marginal areas are typically the richest in terms of biodiversity and it is highly likely that this encroachment has had a high impact on the birdlife of the area.

It seems that I'm not the only one concerned with the situation at Nong Bong Khai as the following artcile from the Bangkok Post proves.

Nick Upton, 30th March 2007
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Nong Bong Khai "under threat" from resorts

Waterfowl at Nong Bong Khai (Chiang Saen Lake), one of Thailand's most important wetland sites, are under threat from the construction of resorts and public facilities in the area, according to a local conservationist. Dowroong Damlamajak said more than 10 resorts had been built around the lake. Ms Dowroong said she was doubtful the resorts met with all legal requirements for construction in the area, as they were located on hilly areas near the lake. However, even if they are lawful, the resorts still pose a major threat to the local ecosystem and migratory birds, she said.

The construction by local authorities of a public toilet to the north of the lake was also causing major damage to the lake's fragile ecosystem, she said. Waste water from the toilet is released into a 300-400 rai bird-watching area that serves as a safe habitat for some 80 bird species, including waterfowls, she said. Ms Dowroong said she had formed a youth group with some 50 members to launch a campaign to raise local people's awareness of the importance of the lake. However, their efforts to date had failed.

The lake, covering over 2,712 rai, is ranked as the country's fifth most important wetland, and is 1,101st internationally under the Ramsar Convention.

Vachirayu Kiartibutr, head of the Nong Bong Khai No-Hunting Area, said his agency had no authority to ban the construction of the resorts around the lake since they were on private land. The public toilet was built for use by tourists, he added. He also denied untreated waste water was being released from the toilet, adding that the toilet was located a long way away from the bird-watching area mentioned by Ms Dowroong. He also said the area was located on a private plot left vacant by a local resident, and was not part of the lake.

Natural resources are still in abundance around the lake, with more than 10,000 migratory birds visiting and staying in the area annually, Mr Vachirayu said.

Story from the Bangkok Post, 31st March 2007.
Related pages: Chiang Saen , Chiang Saen - Mekong Checklist , Baer's Pochard , Bird Persecution
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