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  HOME | Science, Nature & Technology

Mekong River Ecosystem at Risk over Dam Construction in Laos

SI PHAN DON, Laos - The construction of a dam in Laos is endangering the ecosystem of the Mekong river, one of the world's largest rivers running a length of 5,000 km (3,107 miles) and a source of life and livelihood for millions living along its banks.

The dam threatens the Khone Phapheng waterfalls in Laos, the largest landforms in South East Asia, more than 300 native river species, including the last surviving Irrawaddy dolphin or Pah Kha, an endemic freshwater species.

These cetaceans that live in the region from Khone Phapheng falls to Cambodian province of Kratie, are at "high risk of extinction", as only 85 are left at present, according to experts.

The Mekong is also the largest source of fish production worldwide, with 1.3 million tonnes of annual catches.

On Sep. 1, 2008 the Laos government signed an agreement with the Malaysian company Mega First Corporation to build the dam.

Cambodian newspaper Phnom Penh Post later reported the National Assembly of Laos has already greenlighted the construction.

Although no official announcement has been made as to the start date of construction, which the Malaysian press says is set to begin in December, the project has met with protests from environmental groups.

Un Chakrey an official from World Wide Fund for Nature affiliated Greater Mekong platform told EFE, "Don Sahong (dam) is an ecological bomb that will have negative impacts on the entire ecosystem of Mekong River from Laos to the delta in Viet Nam."

"It is likely to destroy the largest continental fishery in the world and changes in sediment flow will seriously affect the ability of the river to maintain biodiversity of the area," said Chakrey.

Six countries are touched by the waters of Mekong: China, Thailand, Cambodia, Viet Nam, Myanmar and Laos.
 

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