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Environment Magazine September/October 2008


November-December 2017

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A River in Peril: Human Activities and Environmental Impacts on the Lower Mekong River and Its Delta

The Mekong is one of the world's largest river systems and the longest river in Southeast Asia. Tens of millions of people directly depend on the river and its delta for their livelihoods in farming and fishing. The Mekong is also characterized by a large delta in Vietnam, which is currently threatened by a range of human activities. The most salient of these threats is the operation and continued development of cascades of dams in different sections of the basin. Recent studies have shown that the dam construction projects along the Upper Mekong in China in particular have had a major impact on both water and sediment fluxes throughout the Mekong basin. The natural flood pulses due to the monsoon climate have been altered as a result, and a sediment starvation effect has been induced downstream from the Upper Mekong River. The severe reduction in sediment delivery downstream has numerous environmental effects. The Mekong's delta, in particular, is directly affected. The very existence of the delta depends on sediment supply and deposition, and such a change in sediment delivery jeopardizes its evolution.


André Robert is Professor in the Department of Geography at York University in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

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