Why is it in the news?
- The proposed multibillion-dollar dam project on the Mekong River in Laos’s Luang Prabang city raises concerns of potential environmental impact, risking the city’s UNESCO World Heritage status.
About Mekong River
- The Mekong River is a significant trans-boundary river in East Asia and Southeast Asia, playing a crucial role in the region’s geography, ecology, and socio-economic dynamics.
- It ranks as the world’s twelfth-longest river and the third-longest in Asia, spanning approximately 4,350 kilometres in length.
- Originating from the Sanjianyuang in the Tibetan Plateau in China, it flows through six Asian countries: China, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam.
- The river eventually drains into the South China Sea, making it a vital waterway for trade and transportation in the region.
- The Mekong River basin is renowned for its exceptional biodiversity, making it the second most biodiverse river basin in the world, following the Amazon River Basin.
- It supports a staggering array of plant and animal species, including approximately 20,000 plant species, 1,200 bird species, 430 mammal species, 800 amphibian and reptile species, and 850 fish species.
- The river basin’s rich biodiversity sustains diverse ecosystems and provides vital ecosystem services to millions of people living along its banks.
- Several major cities and capitals are situated along the Mekong River, including Vientiane, the capital of Laos, and Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia. These cities serve as important cultural, political, and economic hubs in their respective countries, with the Mekong River playing a central role in shaping their identities and livelihoods.
|Significance for India
· India’s engagement with the Mekong River basin is facilitated through initiatives such as the Mekong Ganga Cooperation (MGC).
· The MGC is a cooperative framework involving India and five ASEAN countries (Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam), aimed at enhancing cultural, economic, and political ties between the regions.
· India’s interest in the Mekong River basin stems from its strategic location and economic potential, as well as shared concerns about environmental conservation and sustainable development in the region.
Concerns Regarding Dam Projects
- The proliferation of dam projects along the Mekong River, particularly in Laos, has raised significant environmental and socio-economic concerns.
- These dam projects have the potential to alter the river’s flow, disrupt ecosystems, and impact the livelihoods of communities dependent on the river for fishing, agriculture, and transportation.
· Luang Prabang holds immense cultural and historical significance as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, renowned for its well-preserved architectural and cultural heritage.
· According to legend, Luang Prabang is believed to be a location where Buddha once rested during his travels, adding to its spiritual and cultural importance.