Mekong River Basin

The Mekong River is the longest river in Southeast Asia, and tenth longest in the world. The river begins its 4,909 Km journey in China, high up in the Tibetan Plateau, replenished by the melting snow of the Himalayas. From here it travels through Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and finally Vietnam, where it joins the South China Sea. The Mekong River Basin drains a total land area of 795,000 km2 and includes seven physiographic regions: the Tibetan Plateau, Three Rivers Area and Lancang Basin form the Upper Mekong Basin, while the Lower Mekong Basin contains The Northern Highlands, Khorat Plateau, Tonle Sap Basin and the Mekong Delta . The Mekong River system contains a vast network of tributaries that branch out into the basin. Tributaries in China’s Yunnan province tend to be small, while the largest tributary, the Bassac River, is located in Vietnam. During the dry season, the Tonle Sap Lake in Cambodia drains the Great Lake into the Mekong River. However come the wet season, the Tonle Sap reverses its flow. This is an unusual characteristic that plays a vital role in the Mekong’s hydrology, and is crucial to the unique migratory patterns of fish that many people rely on for their food and livelihoods. Ecology The Mekong River system supports an estimated 60 million people as well as 20,000 plant species, 430 mammal, 1,200 bird, 800 reptiles and amphibians, and 850 fish species. In addition, an area the size of France in the Lower Mekong Basin represents the largest combined area of wild tiger habitat in the world, although few animals remain. The Mekong River also supports the broader ecology and economy of the Basin, with 29.6 million people living within 15km of the river. These people are reliant on the floodplains and wetlands that are integral to rice cultivation, freshwater capture fisheries, other agriculture and aquaculture. The Lower Mekong Basin is home to the world’s largest inland fishery, yielding 2,500,000 tons of fish per year and bringing in about US$2 billion per year in first-sale value. This yearly harvest accounts for 22% of the world’s captured freshwater fish. The Greater Annamite Mountains, which straddle the Laos-Vietnam border, is a particularly unique ecoregion that is also sustained by major tributaries of the Mekong River. Comprising 75 Protected Areas, its distinctive geography and biodiversity means it has been preserved since the last Ice Age, and will continue to be preserved long after the surrounding region has been affected by climate change. People People have lived in the Greater Mekong region for more than 4,000 years. Many of the indigenous peoples of the Lower Mekong Basin depend on the river system for their food security, livelihoods and culture. Currently, six different ethnic groups live in the Kayah-Karen Tenasserim highlands that span the mountainous border between Thailand and Myanmar: The Akha, Hmong, Lu Mien, Karen, Lisu and Lahu people. In Thailand and Cambodia, 80% of the population comes from minority ethnic groups like the Jarai, Kraol, Phnong, Ro Oung, Stieng, Oey, Kreung and Tampuan as well as Cham, Chinese, Khmer, Lao and Vietnamese. Each group has its own traditional economic and cultural relationship to the natural environment, upon which it is heavily dependent. The Greater Annamite Mountains is home to 30 million people from 70 ethno-linguistic groups, such as the Ruc and Khamu Rok in the upland areas, who have inhabited this distinctive ecoregion for thousands of years, and they continue to live off the land based on ancient sustainable customs.   References,d.dGY

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