Robust river governance key to restoring Mekong River vitality in face of dams

Niwat Roykaew, an environmental activist based in Chiang Rai province in northern Thailand, described the Mekong as a naga, a mythical water serpent and symbol of fertility that brings abundance to the entire region.

The river, which flows across the borders of six countries, supports a vast array of ecosystems, irrigates farmlands with nutrient-laden floodwaters, transports stabilizing sediments downstream, and nourishes world-renowned fish populations that form the basis of much of the region’s food security. The river is also a vital part of the traditions and cultural practices of the people who live alongside it. But, Niwat said, a relentless procession of dam building has inflicted wound after wound on this ancient, but suffering, life force.

“The river, as a living creature, feeds the people of the Mekong, but this naga is being slashed to pieces and its power diminished,” he told Mongabay.

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Carolyn Cowan