Interview: China’s Mekong Dam-building Mindset ‘Exported Downstream’ to Cambodia and Laos

Radio Free Asia –

The Mekong River extends for thousands of miles through China, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam, supporting more than 65 million people who depend on it for food, transportation, and commerce. But development, mostly led by China, threatens to upset the delicate balance between local communities and the river’s rich ecosystem.

On Monday, the Mekong River Commission (MRC), a platform for regional cooperation among the countries along the key regional waterway, kicked off a two-day forum in Bangkok, Thailand for stakeholders to discuss sustainable transboundary water management amid challenges including a lack of information sharing on upstream dam construction, flooding, decreased fish stocks, and illegal fishing.

Brian Eyler, Southeast Asia program director of the Washington-based Stimson Center, recently sat down with RFA’s Khmer Service to discuss his new book, The Last Days of the Mighty Mekong, which he wrote based on interviews with policymakers, members of civil society, and residents of riparian communities, conducted along the river from its source to its delta. He cautions against an ‘automatic discrimination’ by urban, mostly Chinese, developers who he says must better appreciate the needs of communities that rely on the Mekong to ensure sustainable development of the river, and warns that the ‘window of opportunity’ to do so is running out.

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