The construction of the Don Sahong hydropower dam in Laos has affected the habitats of Mekong River dolphins, causing their numbers to dwindle in Stung Treng province. The dwindling numbers are causing a decline in tourists who wish to see them, resulting in loss of income for villagers.
Pa Phen gazes wistfully at the Mekong river in Stung Treng province, remembering a time when there were many Irrawaddy dolphins swimming in it before numbers drastically dwindled after Laos started construction of its Don Sahong hydropower dam.
“Before 2016, when there was no dam, there were more than 10 Irrawaddy dolphins in my area, but in recent years they have disappeared and only three remain now,” the 55-year-old says. “If these three also disappear then my people will have no extra income to support their families from tourists who come to watch the mammals.”