Mekong Eye

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Southeast Asia’s poor versus China dams on the Mekong

China has the upper hand over a resource that serves as the economic lifeblood of its poor southern backyard.

Fishing at Tonle Sap: Dmitry A. Mottl, wikimedia commons

By Reporters

Kandal, Cambodia, January 9, 2018

Channel News Asia

KANDAL, Cambodia: Cambodian fisherman Sles Hiet lives at the mercy of the Mekong: A massive river that feeds tens of millions but is under threat from the Chinese dams cementing Beijing’s physical – and diplomatic – control over its Southeast Asian neighbours.

The 32-year-old, whose ethnic Cham Muslim community live on rickety house boats that bob along a river bend in Kandal province, says the size of his daily catch has been shrinking by the year.

“We don’t know why there are less fish now,” he told AFP of a mystery that has mired many deeper into poverty.

It is a lament heard from villages along a river that snakes from the Tibetan plateau through Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam before emptying into the South China Sea.

Nearly 4,800km long, the Mekong is the world’s largest inland fishery and second only to the Amazon for its bio-diversity. It helps feed around 60 million people across its river basin.

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