Fishermen attempt to harvest fish through man-made ponds on the Mekong River, where water levels are striking record lows amid massive dam construction in Laos. (Photo: Luke Hunt/UCA News)
Rarely has a major international waterway been in such a parlous state. The science is irrefutable amid warnings that stretch back two decades: upstream dams are ruining fish stocks, eroding river banks and imperiling a food chain that feeds 70 million people.
But the ramifications mean little for the one-party states and military-controlled governments responsible for managing the Mekong River, with Laos pressing ahead with a fifth dam to be built across its mainstream.
Reports from Laos say yellow markers have already been laid out and surveyors are doing the prep work despite locals calling for a delay on construction of the 1,400-megawatt hydropower project at Luang Prabang in the country’s north.
Perhaps more galling was the Mekong River Commission (MRC). At a recent town hall meeting in Laos, MRC chief executive An Pich Hatda actually told locals: "Your participation is not just a hoop we have to jump through. It is not a rubber stamp of the process.”