‘Nothing about the Mekong is normal now’: Anger along Southeast Asia’s great river as water levels become unpredictable

From a distance, it is hard to make sense of the small patches of green emerging from the cracking mud flats of the Mekong River. They are not oases, nor sprouts of river grass along dusty channels where water normally flows; they are golf greens.

Recently, an unusual golf tournament was held here, in the border city of Nakhon Phanom, with players taking aim along a makeshift nine-hole course carved into the river bank itself. Water was a shifting hazard and the rough was impenetrable mud.

The event was held in the hope of attracting tourists to experience the “unseen” sights of Thailand and boost local communities. It also – inadvertently – illustrated the critical condition of Southeast Asia’s great river.

Just days after the event was held, rising water levels had swamped the tee-off area, turning fairways back to local fishermen, who resumed searching for a catch in the slow-moving shallows. 

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Jack Board