Review: The river rebels of the Mekong

The Third Pole –

In his compelling book, “Last Days of the Mighty Mekong”, Brian Eyler travels down the river, meeting the rebels trying to save it from destruction

The Mekong is the world’s 12th-longest river, second only to the Amazon in terms of biodiversity importance, and the world’s most productive inland fishery. It is also a transboundary river – rising from the glaciers of the Tibetan Plateau, in China, before tumbling down through Myanmar, Laos, Thailand and Cambodia and emptying into the South China Sea, in Vietnam. The Mekong is therefore a critical point of contestation, or cooperation, between the six states that share its resources. The stakes, and uncertainties, are only heightened by climate change: the roof of the world is warming far faster than average, with experts warning recently that two-thirds of Himalayan glaciers could disappear by the end of the century.

Last Days of the Mighty Mekong, however, is not a policy report about these urgent challenges. Instead, Brian Eyler, the director of the Stimson Center’s Southeast Asia Program in Washington, D.C., has penned an engaging and open-ended book, with a less elegiac tone than its title might imply. At many points a vividly reported travelogue, Eyler starts in the tiny Tibetan village of Yubeng, in Yunnan province, south-west China.

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