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Why the Mekong is so important

For its size, the Mekong is packed with more kinds of wildlife than any other river. Only the enormous Amazon river can top it.

There are over 1,000 different types of creature swimming the waters of the mighty Mekong, including the last remaining Irrawaddy dolphins in the Mekong, giant freshwater stingray that can weigh up to 600kg, and the Mekong giant catfish .

More than 70 million people live in the Mekong river basin, and they rely on the river for drinking water, food, irrigation, hydropower, transportation and commerce. The Mekong and its wildlife have strong cultural significance too.

The Mekong River also boasts the world's largest inland fishery. It produces up to a quarter of the world’s total haul of freshwater fish – 2.5 million tonnes a year – and provides livelihoods for at least 60 million people. Fish is a staple food along the Mekong.

But the river is increasingly under threat – not just from overfishing, but also from dams, especially large hydropower dams. Hydropower can be a cheap and clean source of energy, but if it’s done badly it can be catastrophic – for the environment and for local fishing. We need to help make Mekong hydropower sustainable.

Location of the Mekong

The Mekong River starts up among the glaciers of the Himalayas and ends by flowing into the South China Sea. On the way it winds through parts of China, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam.

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About the Mekong

The Mekong is the longest river in south-east Asia, winding almost 4,800km from the mountains of Tibet down to the south of Vietnam. Its river basin covers almost 800,000sq km.

The biggest environmental talking point on the Mekong at the moment is the building of huge dams – which, it’s estimated, could reduce the river’s fish stocks by more than 40%. Not to mention the damage they could do to other river wildlife.

Part of the construction process for dams often involves using explosives to remove tons of rock. The soundwaves alone from these blasts can harm animals like dolphins up to several miles away.

The already threatened Irrawaddy dolphin is at the head of the concern list in the Mekong. With fewer than 90 left in the river, losing any more would be disastrous.

On top of all this, the International Panel for Climate Change has identified the Mekong delta as one of the three most vulnerable river deltas on the planet

We’re working with government and community organisations to improve the management of the Mekong’s natural resources, and create a sustainable future for the river.

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£25 could pay a Protection Unit ranger's salary for 10 days, to help keep these magestic creatures safe.

Adopt an animal today and help protect some of our most endangered wildlife and support other vital work around our planet.

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