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Millions suffer as China blindly constructs dams on the Mekong and Yangtze rivers.

WWF Report Reveals Threat of Extinction for Mekong Fish Species

A report titled “The Mekong Forgotten Fishes” by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has brought alarming news: 19% of the 1,148 fish species in the Mekong River basin are on the brink of extinction. Among them, 74 species are assessed as at risk, with 18 already declared as ‘critically endangered’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

The Mekong River, stretching over 3050 miles and traversing China, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam, is dubbed the ‘lifeline’ of Southeast Asia. Approximately 80% of Cambodians and Laotians rely on Mekong fish for sustenance, while lower Vietnam sees heavy dependence on aquatic resources from the river.

In 2015, the Lower Mekong Basin generated a significant $11 billion in fisheries business. Cambodia and Laos alone earned $2.8 billion and $1.3 billion respectively from fisheries in the same year, with Thailand’s profits reaching $6.4 billion. Fisheries contribute to 18% of Cambodia’s GDP and 13% of Lao People’s Democratic Republic’s GDP, directly or indirectly employing an estimated 40 million people along the Mekong River.

However, the construction of dams over the past five years has disrupted fish migration and water quality, impacting aquatic biodiversity. Dams impede the flow of sediment and nutrients crucial for agriculture, leading to reduced crop yields. A Bangkok Post report in 2019 predicted an 80% decline in fish populations by 2040, with Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam bearing the brunt.

Apart from economic implications, Mekong fisheries are a staple or sole food source for over half the population in the basin. Yet, unrestrained dam construction threatens to exacerbate food insecurity and trigger mass displacement.

Moreover, dam projects in China, particularly along the Yangtze River, provoke environmental and cultural concerns. Protests erupted in Sichuan Province over the construction of a dam, jeopardizing centuries-old Tibetan settlements and heritage sites.

The proposed Kamtok hydroelectric power plant, part of China’s ambitious plan for multiple dams, poses further ecological and cultural risks. As per the Mekong Region Futures Institute, approximately 94 dams are under construction, planned, or commissioned across the basin, spelling potential disaster for millions.

Unless action is taken to mitigate these threats, the Mekong basin faces an unprecedented humanitarian and ecological crisis, underscoring the urgent need for sustainable management and conservation efforts. Source –

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