Originating in the Tibetan highlands and running through China, Myanmar, Thailand, Lao PDR, Cambodia, and Vietnam, the Mekong and its tributaries provide water, food and income for 60 million people. The longest river in Southeast Asia is home to the world’s largest inland fishery. It is estimated that 25 percent of the global freshwater catch is harvested from this river.
Damming of the Mekong started in China in the early 1990s. However, most of the river remained undammed due largely to the regional cooperation between the lower Mekong member states. In 2006, energy needs magnified by the financial returns of hydropower drove Lao to kick off its first dam on the river, as well as dozens more on its tributaries. Other lower Mekong countries followed suit.