Can Mekong Stingrays Tell the Chinese Dam Story Well?

Can a giant stingray in the Lower Mekong be used to craft a good narrative about Chinese upstream dams? It can, according to an unsigned Khmer Times article in June 2022 about a 300-kilogramme stingray found in Cambodia’s Stung Treng province. The article quoted Zeb Hogan, an American biologist and director of the Wonders of the Mekong project, as saying that “stingrays do not like to live in polluted waters”, and this “shows that China’s dam construction doesn’t affect the Lower Mekong’s ecosystem”. The project is funded by the US Agency for International Development.

Republished on the website of the China-administered Lancang-Mekong Water Resources Cooperation Information Sharing Platform (LMC-ISP), this could have been an example of the “wonderful stories” the Chinese hope to tell to refute what they see as unfounded and US-instigated allegations about the negative environmental impact of dam building in the upstream Lancang (the Chinese name for the Mekong).

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