At the beginning of the month one of the resorts sponsored a river cleanup event on the Mae Wang River outside of Chiang Mai. The Mae Wang River is a very popular with travelers and Thai’s alike. Hundreds of tourists visit daily to feed elephants and go white water or bamboo rafting. On the weekends hundreds of Thai’s will head up the Mae Wang to go bamboo rafting and eat at the restaurants along the river. All of these activities contribute to the litter problem in the Mae Wang River.
After eating our group was taken and dropped off to cleanup a section of the river. This involved wading through the rain swollen river and I unintentionally contributed to the litter problem when I lost a flip flop to the river. I mostly picked up styrofoam food trays, red bull bottles, and plastic bags and in an hour we filled a dozen trash bags.
As part of my previous job I used to help organize our annual Coastal Cleanup events in Winters and I knew I would be seeing this event through a different lens than most. Here are the cleanup pro’s and con’s that I observed.
- Free songthaew ride from the Old City
- Free bamboo rafting
- Free food
- River cleanup
- Only one songthaew arrived to carry about 30 of us so we ALL had to wait while another 2 songthaews were organized.
- When we arrive there were so many volunteers that there weren’t enough bamboo raft guides for us all to go rafting.
- While all the Thai food was delicious and served on real plates with real cutlery there was also a huge amount of single serving chips, snacks, and bottled water. It was a little disheartening to see a good intentioned group generating enough plastic trash to fill a 35 gallon bag.
- We only spent 1 out of 5 hours actually picking up litter. We spent 3 hours waiting for transportation/being transported out to the river and 1 hour was spent eating.
All pro’s and con’s aside it was a good day. I made some new friends, ate some good food, and helped cleanup the river. If this event is repeated I hope that it will be a little better organized and we can contribute more than 1 hour to cleaning up the river.
All photos by Liz. Many thanks for documenting this event.