Vast Changes Along the Mekong River

Dam and development projects are in the works along the Mekong River, which runs through six Asian countries. Some say the river and the economies that rely on it are being threatened.
December 18, 2009, 6am PST | Nate Berg
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"[T]oday the river, which courses 3,032 miles through portions of China, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam before emptying into the South China Sea, is rapidly being transformed by a rising tide of economic development, the region's thirst for electricity and the desire to use the river as a cargo thoroughfare. The Mekong has been spared the pollution that blackens many of Asia's great rivers, but it is no longer the backwater of centuries past.

China has built three hydroelectric dams on the Mekong (known as the Lancang in Chinese) and is halfway through a fourth at Xiaowan, which when completed will be the world's tallest dam, according to the United Nations Environment Program.

Laos is planning so many dams on the Mekong and its tributaries - 7 of about 70 have been completed - that government officials have said that their ambition is to turn the country into "the battery of Asia." Cambodia is planning two dams."

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Published on Thursday, December 17, 2009 in The New York Times
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