An Eco-sustainable World
Nature to be saved



The Mê Kông is the longest and most important river in Indochina, with an estimated length of 4,880 km.

Etymology –
The word “Mekong” comes from the Thai language. In the Thai language, the river is called “Mae Nam Khong”, which means “Mãe Água Khong”.
The term “Mae Nam” is often used in Thailand to refer to rivers. “Mae” means “mãe” and “Nam” means “water” in Thai. “Khong” comes from the ancient term “Khmer”, which is the official language of Cambodia, and refers to the ancient Khmer kingdom that existed in the region. Therefore, “Mae Nam Khong” can be translated as “River of Mãe Água Khong” or “Mãe Khong River”.
The name Mekong is a romanization of the Thai term “Mae Nam Khong” and has been widely adopted internationally to refer to this important river.
This river is called by the Vietnamese Cửu Long, in Tibetan Dza-chu, in Chinese Méigōng Hé, 湄公河, and in Thai Mae Nam Khong, แม่น้ำโขง.

Geographic Features –
The Mekong River is one of the largest rivers in Asia, flowing through six countries: China, Myanmar (Burma), Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam.
The Mekong River stretches approximately 4,880 kilometers, making it one of the longest rivers in Asia.
Drainage Basin: The drainage basin of the Mekong covers an area of approximately 795,000 square kilometers, extending across the six countries the river flows through. This vast catchment area is home to great biodiversity and plays a vital role in the region’s agriculture and economy.
Tibetan Plateaus: The Mekong originates on the Tibetan Plateau in the mountainous region of China’s Qinghai province at an elevation of about 5,000 meters. The Tibetan mountains and plateaus provide an important source of water for the river.
Waterfalls and rapids: On its way to the sea, the Mekong forms many waterfalls and rapids. Among the most famous waterfalls are Khone Falls, in Laos, which are the largest waterfalls in the Mekong river system.
Mekong Delta: At the mouth of the river in Vietnam lies the Mekong Delta, a vast region of alluvial lands covering an area of approximately 39,000 square kilometers. The delta is characterized by a network of canals, river arms and rich rice paddies, and is one of the most important agricultural regions of Vietnam.
Economic Importance: The Mekong River is of great economic importance to the region. It is a source of livelihood for millions of people who live along its banks, providing water for agricultural irrigation, fishing and river transport. The river also supports hydroelectric power generation through the construction of dams along its course.
Biodiversity: The Mekong is home to an extraordinary biodiversity with a great variety of plant and animal species. The Mekong River region is known for its rich fish species, including the giant Mekong catfish, which is considered one of the largest freshwater fish in the world.
However, it is important to note that the Mekong River has been subject to several threats, including damming, deforestation, pollution and climate change, which have significantly impacted the ecosystem of the river and the communities it depends on. From it.

Historical Notes –
The history of the Mekong dates back thousands of years, and the river has played a significant role in shaping the civilizations and cultures along its course. The earliest human settlements along the river date back more than 4,000 years, with various civilizations developing over the centuries.
During the period of the Khmer Empire, which reached its zenith between the 9th and 13th centuries, the Mekong served as an important communication route for trade and transportation. Numerous cities and temples were built along its banks during this period.
Over the centuries, the river has been a point of conflict between several regional powers. In the 19th century, European colonial expansion into the region led to the partition of the Mekong between the colonial powers. France gained control of the lower reaches of the river, including Cambodia and southern Vietnam, while the British Empire controlled much of Burma and Thailand.
During the Vietnam War in the 1960s and 1970s, the Mekong became an important theater for fighting. The Viet Cong, backed by North Vietnam, used the river as a supply and transportation route for their troops and supplies. US and South Vietnamese forces sought to cut off Viet Cong supplies through a strategy known as “Operation Constant Flow”.
In recent decades, the Mekong River has been a concern due to economic expansion and industrialization in the region. The construction of dams along the river has raised environmental and social concerns, as the ecosystems of the river and the communities that depend on it have been adversely affected.
Today, the Mekong continues to be an important artery for trade and transportation in the region. River tourism has become increasingly popular along the river, with numerous cruises and itineraries allowing visitors to explore the natural beauty and rich cultures of the Mekong region.
However, sustainable management of the Mekong River’s resources remains a challenge, as countries that share its waters must balance economic development with environmental protection and the livelihood of local communities.

Ecosystem –
Mekong ecosystem refers to the set of related biological and physical communities found in the Mekong River region and surrounding areas in Southeast Asia and is known for its high biodiversity and is regarded as one of the richest regions in especially in the world.
The Mekong ecosystem includes a variety of habitats, including tropical forests, wetlands, mangroves, estuaries and freshwater areas. These habitats support a diverse range of species, many of which are unique to the region. The Mekong River and its tributaries support important freshwater fisheries that provide food and livelihoods for millions of people in the region.
The Mekong ecosystem is also home to iconic species such as the Irrawaddy River dolphin, Siamese crocodile, Asian elephant and tiger. Furthermore, the region is an important corridor for migratory birds and is home to a great diversity of waterfowl.
However, the Mekong ecosystem faces several challenges and threats. The development of hydroelectric dams on the Mekong River has altered water flow and flood patterns, adversely affecting fisheries and riparian ecosystems. Deforestation, overexploitation of natural resources, pollution and climate change also pose a threat to ecosystem health and sustainability.
To address these challenges, conservation and sustainable management initiatives have been implemented in the Mekong region. International organisations, governments and local communities are working together to protect biodiversity, promote sustainable fisheries, conserve key habitats and address water governance issues in the Mekong River.
The Mekong ecosystem is of global significance due to its unique biodiversity and its role in supporting local communities. Its conservation and sustainable management are essential to ensure the health of the ecosystem and the well-being of the people who depend on it.

Flora –
The flora of the Mekong River, which flows through several Southeast Asian countries, is extremely diverse and rich due to the different ecological conditions along its course.
In the low-lying and flat areas of the Mekong Delta, where the river flows into the sea, there is lush vegetation composed mainly of mangroves and freshwater forests. These mangroves are vital for coastal protection, flood control and as a habitat for various plant and animal species.
As we enter the mountainous regions of the upper Mekong River, we find tropical humid and mixed forests. These forests are extremely diverse and support a wide variety of plant species, including tall trees, lianas, ferns, orchids, and a wide range of epiphytic plants that grow on tree trunks.
In the riparian areas of the river you can find various species of trees, shrubs and grasses adapted to the conditions of periodic flooding. These plants have special adaptations, such as long, strong roots that allow them to survive in waterlogged soil during the rainy season.
The Mekong is also known for its vast rice fields, especially in countries like Vietnam and Cambodia. Rice is an integral part of the life and culture of local communities in the Mekong region, and rice fields are a distinctive landscape in many areas near the river.

Wildlife –
The following are some of the most important species of Mekong fauna:
Irrawaddy River Dolphin (Orcaella brevirostris): This freshwater dolphin is one of the most emblematic mammals of the Mekong. It is known for its rounded head and melon-shaped nose. The Irrawaddy River Dolphin is critically endangered due to habitat loss and overfishing.
– Giant Mekong catfish (Pangasianodon gigas): Also known as the Mekong River giant catfish, it is one of the largest freshwater fish in the world. It can reach impressive dimensions, exceeding 3 meters in length and weighing more than 300 kilograms.
– Freshwater shark (Glyphis siamensis): this river shark is a rare and little-known species that inhabits the Mekong and its tributaries. It is an agile swimmer and feeds mainly on fish and crustaceans. Due to habitat loss and overexploitation, the freshwater shark is in critical danger of extinction.
– Cantor’s Giant Softshell Turtle (Pelochelys cantorii): This softshell turtle is one of the largest freshwater turtle species in the world. It can reach impressive sizes, with a carapace length of up to 2 meters. The Cantor River Turtle is extremely rare and critically endangered.
– Siamese dwarf caiman (Crocodylus siamensis): it is a semi-aquatic reptile found in the Mekong and other rivers of the region. Although it is called “dwarf”, it can reach lengths of up to 3 meters. The Siamese dwarf caiman is threatened due to habitat loss and poaching.
– In addition to these iconic species, the Mekong is home to a wide variety of fish, including many endemic species such as the Mekong carp (Probarbus jullieni) and the Yangtze paddlefish (Psephurus gladius). There is also a great diversity of birds, reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates that depend on the river and its associated ecosystems.
It is important to note that some of these animals are in danger of extinction due to habitat loss, overfishing, pollution and other factors related to human activities. The conservation of the Mekong fauna is essential to preserve the biodiversity of the region and ensure the balance of river ecosystems.

Environmental Protection Actions –
Due to the environmental challenges the river faces, several conservation actions have been taken to preserve its health and sustainability. Here are some of the key actions taken to protect the Mekong:
– Mekong River Commission (MRC): The MRC is an intergovernmental organization made up of four countries in the Mekong Basin: Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam. The MRC works to promote cooperation among member countries for the sustainable management of Mekong River resources. The commission carries out a variety of surveillance, research and monitoring activities to protect the river and its ecosystems.
– Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA): The EIA is a process that is performed to assess the environmental impacts of major development projects that may affect the Mekong River. Countries in the Mekong Basin apply for EIA for projects such as hydroelectric dams, roads and infrastructure that could have significant consequences on the ecosystem of the river.
– Regional water management cooperation: Mekong Basin countries work together to sustainably manage the river’s water resources. This includes sharing information about flood and dry seasons, negotiating water use agreements, and promoting water management practices that minimize negative impacts on river ecosystems.
– Conservation of ecosystems and species: Several conservation initiatives have been implemented to protect the ecosystems and species of the Mekong. This includes creating nature reserves, promoting protected areas and fighting against illegal fishing and the use of unsustainable fishing practices.
– Awareness and involvement of local communities: Making local communities aware of the importance of the conservation of the Mekong River and actively involving them in environmental protection decisions and actions is essential. Through educational programs, partnerships with communities and the promotion of sustainable resource use practices, we seek to involve people who directly depend on the river to ensure its long-term protection.
These actions to protect the Mekong are a commitment to preserve the health of the river and ensure it continues to support communities and ecosystems in the region. However, the challenge of balancing economic development with environmental conservation remains an important issue to address.

Guido Bissanti

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