The operation of dams along the Mekong River is exacerbating conditions in a particularly dry year and choking off a lifeline for Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam.
The Ayeyarwady River, dubbed the lifeblood of Myanmar and home to a threatened species of dolphin, is being suffocated by tonnes of plastic. It has been ranked the ninth most polluted river in the world.
There have been many reports about the alarmingly low level of the Mekong this rainy season, both in Laos and in neighbouring countries, but other rivers are also shrinking.
Businesses headquartered in the two districts which discharge more than 1,000 cu.m of waste water were told to install automatic monitoring stations which send data to the department.
Helpless newborns must now clamber over washed-up plastic bottle caps, coffee sachets and food packaging on their hazardous journey down the beach to reach the relative safety of the sea.
With the need to generate power from the upriver dams seemingly a greater priority than the livelihoods of people living in downstream communities – and with climate change an increasing concern – low water levels are set to be a recurring event in the coming years.
Neth Pheaktra, spokesman for the ministry, yesterday said the drive focuses on reducing plastic bag use in the country’s top three producers of waste, which are Phnom Penh and the provinces of Siem Reap and Preah Sihanouk.
The government has ordered all mining activity in Hpakant to cease during Myanmar’s May-October monsoon season, but people in the area say scavengers still scour tailing piles for jade.