Published: Sunday 15 December 1996

The Mekong river, running through six nations, has generated lot of development activities and much tension in the Southeast Asian countries. While China and Laos have pinned their hydro-electric hopes on the river and Thailand sees it as a booming tourist resort, for Vietnam and Cambodia any disruption in the river's flow could lead to economic and environmental disaster. It could cause ecological damage to the Tonle Sap Lake in Cambodia while Vietnam fears that the rice crops of rural farmers in the delta region will dry up thus impeding its economic development.

The Mekong originates in the western Chinese province of Quinghai and flows southwards across Laos, Burma, Thailand, Cambodia and finally into Vietnam. On the Chinese stretch of the Mekong, 15 dams with a combined generating capacity of 20,730 mw are slated to come up. Environmentalists fear that the combined effect of the projects initiated by China, Thailand and Laos would dry up the southern Mekong delta on which relies 60 per cent of Vietnam's agricultural yield.

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