Mekong Eye

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On Earth Day: Mekong tears for humanity

Asking the Mekong River what she thinks of our behavior toward her and toward ourselves.

By Mekong Eye

Bangkok, April 22, 2018

Mekong Eye

Three weeks ago, the Mekong River Commission (MRC) announced winners of its first writing competition: What does the Mekong River mean to you? 

“The winners,” the MRC stated, “See the river as a unique source of life, love, prosperity, cooperation, and peace.”

It’s rather ironic that the standouts among the 333 submission reflect such a reverence for the Mekong when the MRC’s ongoing research suggests otherwise: reporting a rising rate of deterioration at the hands of the Commission’s member and partnering states. 

Possibly, interest in highlighting this dichotomy of what’s felt in the hearts of many Mekong people and what leaders are allowed to do, helped to motivate the MRC’s framing of this writing contest. This paradigm battle over respect for, versus exploitation of, nature is hardly new, however. 

What might be more useful, therefore, would be the perspective from the Mekong River herself. Increasingly, the world is witnessing communities seeking and gaining legal rights, even “personhood” for rivers, so it seems timely to explore not so much what humans think of the Mekong, but what the Mekong thinks of us. 

Here’s just a handful of data points the Mekong would likely employ in framing her perspective. 

The Mekong River knows, that in geologic time, she’s likely to be here in some form well after this current human obsession with its structural manipulation has passed. But like the demise of the ancient society of Angkor, and its water development infrastructure, the decisions now being made on the Mekong seem no less risky. 

In Thai, the Mekong, or Mae Nam Khong, means the Mother River Khong. So in considering what she may be thinking about humans, it’s probably akin to watching a child continuously do wrong, not only bringing tremendous harm to her, but to itself. Eventually, all she can do is shed more tears.

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