Women’s rights and river protection

Asia Times –

Usually at this time of year during the dry season in northern Thailand, the Mekong River recedes, and sand and pebble beaches appear. Covering the pebbles, through the clear and shallow water, one can see the pale green kai, a river weed of the Mekong. This sight is a signal to women in communities along the Mekong near the Thai- Laotian border to wade into the water to collect kai, which they dry, feed to their families, and sell at the market.

But this year the Mekong levels surged instead of falling, rising nearly 2 meters, because of a cascade of hydroelectric mega dams operating upstream. The sudden rise in water levels prevented the once-abundant kai harvest upon which local women depend.

This experience, and the loss of vital river-based resources, is not unique to the women farming on the Thai-Laotian border. This International Women’s Day (March 8), women around the world who depend upon and steward the world’s freshwater resources are facing similar threats as they reckon with longstanding gender inequities in decision-making on water control and management.

Perhaps nowhere is the fight so dire than in the Congo basin, where plans are advancing to build the Grand Inga hydropower project, which if completed will be the largest dam in history.

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