Fishermen living next to the Mekong have seen their wealth diminishing with changing water flow patterns – a phenomenon observed over the past two decades since China started building 11 dams in its upper Mekong.
“Dam-building is still controversial in China because of environmental concerns. However, opposition is not as strong as before, because the need to achieve carbon neutrality is more pressing.”
Rivers and their floodplains have the potential to act as shock absorbers to climate change, but the Mekong River illustrates the harsh reality communities face when infrastructure is poorly planned.
Indeed, China has a big role in the framework given that it has financially contributed to most projects, if not all, under the MLC. But this does not necessarily mean the superpower should enjoy a free hand.
hough Laos may not respect UNESCO’s wishes, the argument that the dam goes against the government’s own promises regarding the country’s national identity is compelling. Though Laos may not see the enormous risks involved in the Luang Prabang dam, it may be able to recognize its own commitments.
And China has mirrored its construction of artificial islands in the South China Sea by damming the upper Mekong River, giving Chinese dam engineers the power of life and death over large swathes of the downstream Mekong nations.
The ambassadors of Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia have called for greater support from the U.S. and the ASEAN regional bloc to address urgent environmental threats to the Mekong River. They also emphasized the need for improved water data sharing by all countries on the river, including China.
Predictive flow data is not so helpful since, “we can’t negotiate with those who are in control of the water flow. The key to reducing environmental impacts on both birds and other animals is to let the Mekong river run naturally.”
Artist Disorn Duangdao’s new exhibition ‘Interbeing’ explores the negative effects of a drying Mekong and voices concern about violence in politics
The conclusion of this new study brings the river dolphin species up to six in total, all of which are listed as either Endangered or Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List, including the Irrawaddy dolphins (Critically Endangered), found in the Mekong River.