Among the many ailments plaguing Southeast Asia’s Mekong River, “hungry water” stands out with particular clarity. In recent dry seasons, the Mekong has in places turned a pristine blue as upstream dams rob it of the nutritious particles that normally color the river a healthy mud brown. It’s a phenomenon that can be highly destructive, with the sediment-starved water eating away at unbuffered river banks — hence the “hungry” epithet — and causing harmful erosion.
It also encapsulates the troubled state of the Mekong, a river that may look healthy on the surface but has grown increasingly sick from a wide range of problems, including dam building, overfishing, deforestation, plastic pollution, and the insidious impacts of a changing climate. During El Niño-induced droughts in recent years, things got so bad that some people suggested the Mekong River was approaching an ecological tipping point beyond which it could not recover.
But events in the past year suggest such doomsday predictions may be premature, especially in Cambodia, which sits at the heart of the Mekong basin. Thanks to the last monsoon season, which delivered above-average rainfall to the region, and authorities cracking down on illegal fishing, fish stocks have increased. Fishers along the Mekong have discovered giant fish thought to have disappeared, and the Cambodian government, which has a mixed environmental record, has stepped up conservation efforts.
In full: https://e360.yale.edu/features/mekong-river-cambodia-recovery