The Last Farewell to the Mighty Mekong

The shrinking Tonle Sap, the river’s “beating heart,” is the latest wake-up call of the damage wrought by dams.

The miracle of the Mekong, where the pulsating force of the monsoon-driven river every year pushes its tributary to back up and reverse its flow into the great Tonle Sap lake in Cambodia, has again been disrupted and obstructed by dams, drought, and climate change.

“This is a terrible disaster for the whole Mekong region,” Thai academic Chainarong Setthachua declared. He told The Diplomat, “If we lose the Tonle Sap we lose the heart of the biggest inland fisheries in the world.”

The lake is a critical fishing ground for Cambodia, as well as supporting fish migrations along the entire Mekong. Back in 2014, Chheng Phen, the former director of Cambodia’s Inland Fisheries Research and Development Institute, told the New York Times, “If the Tonle Sap does not function,” he said, “then the whole fishery of the Mekong will collapse.” That is exactly what the Mekong region is facing today.

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