Chinese Dams leave Mekong River struggling for life

11 Chinese dams upstream are wrecking havoc on local communities' livelihood and the environment.

The many dams along the Mekong River is facing disastrous consequences both for the environment and people.

The Mekong River provides water, food, income and energy security for a population of about 70 million people, whose daily existence is closely linked to the Mekong, and for whom the staple diet is rice, fish and other aquatic animals.  

However, the many dams along the Mekong River, especially in the Chinese region of the Upper Mekong River Basin, has changed the natural flow, and water levels and quality, with disastrous consequences both for the environment and people.  And experts have sounded the alarm on the eventual collapse of the ecosystem in the Mekong basin.

The Mekong, one of the world’s longest waterways, runs about 2,500 miles from its source in the Tibetan Plateau in China, and winding its way through Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam, where it flows into the South China Sea.  The banks of the fast-moving river are lined with crops, grazing livestock and fishing boats

According to the Mekong River Commission, the Mekong contains the world’s third most diverse fish population, with 1,148 species, and the inland fisheries of the Lower Mekong Basin is the world’s largest, with the total fish catch estimated at 2.3 million tons worth US$11 billion per year. 

Experts believed that the construction and operation of China’s 11 dams within its border on the Upper Mekong is having devastating impacts on downstream communities, leading to extreme flooding and droughts that decimated fish spawning areas, crops and livestock.  For example, experts blamed China’s dams for contributing to a historic drought crisis in 2019 where water levels in the Mekong River fell to their lowest in more than 100 years. 

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