Dams on the Mekong are causing mayhem

The Mighty Mekong is one of the world’s most iconic rivers, but it is at grave risk of turning into a shadow of its former self.

“Everywhere you look there are indications that this river, which has provided for so many, for so long, is at a breaking point,” Zeb Hogan, a fish biologist at the University of Nevada, stressed in an interview with National Geographic.

That is no mere hyperbole. The Mekong, which originates in China and empties into the South China Sea in Vietnam, is losing much of its rich biodiversity throughout its length of 4,350km. The river is home to more than 1,000 species of fish, many of which depend on seasonal floods and sediments for breeding. A variety of birds, amphibians and other animals, too, rely on seasonal changes in the river .

Yet a series of hydroelectric dams built in China and Laos have caused the natural flow of the river to be severely disrupted and its water levels to plunge precipitously for months on end. Sand mining and overfishing have dealt further blows to riverine ecosystems.

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