Opinion: Floodplain wetlands of the Mekong – going, going, gone?

A rapid and irreversible change is taking place in the Lower Mekong basin. Floodplain grasslands and freshwater wetlands are being lost – bustling ecosystems that once supported thriving communities of large mammals and birds. These include the spectacular sarus crane; the greater adjutant, one of the world’s largest stork species; and the Bengal florican, a chicken-sized bustard known for its parachuting display flight. Today, these are some of the region’s most threatened large birds. Meanwhile, deer, wild cattle and big cats have been virtually extirpated across most of the region by a combination of hunting pressure and habitat loss.

Three hundred years ago, the Mekong delta was a vast area of swamp forest, reedbeds and flooded grasslands that formed an enormous inland wetland roughly the size of Lebanon, known as the “Plain of Reeds”. Since then, the wetland has more than halved in size, and the delta is now a sea of cultivation and aquaculture.

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Ding Li Yong, Khwankhao Sinhaseni