Mekong

Aerial view of the Mekong Delta in Southern Vietnam. rel=
Aerial view of the Mekong Delta in Southern Vietnam.
© WWF-Canon / Elizabeth KEMF

Amazon of South East Asia

The Mekong River is the 10th largest river in the world with a biological diversity comparable to that of the Amazon.

Like the Yangtze, the Mekong River rises in the Tibetan Himalayas. Fed by melting snow it begins its 4,500km journey through steep mountain gorges in China, gathering power from streams along the way, passing through the “Golden Triangle” formed by the borders of Myanmar, Laos and Thailand, before heading into Cambodia and entering the South China Sea in South Vietnam.

The basin is home to 1,300 fish species and rich, but largely unknown, mollusc and turtle fauna. The river is one of the last strongholds of the remarkable Irrawaddy river dolphin. Wetlands in the basin harbour rare species such as the Siamese crocodile and Sarus crane.

The remaining forests in the area are home to a spectacular array of mammals, including charismatic and endangered species like the tiger and several large herbivores that have only been discovered in the last decades. Three sites in Cambodia have been designated as wetlands of international importance under the Ramsar Convention, and 2 areas of the Mekong River basin qualify as endemic bird areas.

In and around the river, 60 million people depend on fish and other resources in the river system for most of the protein in their diets. These people use the river and its tributaries as arteries of transport and sources of water for cooking, cleaning, sanitation, and irrigation.

Current threats
Large river engineering projects on the river’s tributaries are the biggest threats. All recent hydro projects on both the Mekong main stream and its tributaries have had serious impacts on the river and affect fisheries and fishing based livelihoods of local communities. The close relationship of the Mekong mainstream and its tributaries has meant that these effects have automatically spread over the whole basin.
The Mekong River Basin. / ©: WWF Greater Mekong
The Mekong River Basin.
© WWF Greater Mekong
Countries
China, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam

Basin population
Over 60 million people

Size
795,000 km2

Length
4,800 km

Key species
Mekong Giant Catfish, Giant Carp, Mekong Stingray, Irrawaddy Dolphin, Giant Ibis, Siamese Crocodile

Livelihood facts
Over 60 million people in and around the river depend on fish and other resources in the river system for most of the protein in their diets.

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