A strange thing has happened to the Mekong. The murky brown, sediment-rich waters that normally pour from the Tibetan Plateau through China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam have turned a very bright blue. That is, what’s left of the water.
With a dam-building race kicked into high gear by China, much of the Mekong has gone dry, affecting food sources for the 60 million people who live along its banks and leaving many experts wondering what lies ahead for one of the most important rivers on Earth.
An upcoming photo exhibition will dive into the environmental catastrophe unfolding before our eyes.
The Mekong is Blue and Dried is a storytelling initiative that uses photos and essays to highlight environmental degradation, the impact of dams, and how they have affected both the communities who depend on the river for their livelihoods and the groups advocating for sustainable change.
Spearheaded by the nonprofit SEA Junction, Bangkok Tribune, Samdhana Institute and Thai Society of Environmental Journalists, the exhibition takes aim at the effects of damming at a time when experts say the river’s future is more uncertain than ever.
The Xayaburi dam, the region’s largest hydropower project, is now up and running, and there are 11 dams planned for the lower mainstream Mekong, as well as 300 others in planning for its feeder waterways.
These projects have slowed the flow of the river to a trickle, causing some of the water to turn sky blue – a sign that it’s lacking sediment, which could lead to devastating erosion in the future.
Authorities on the issue – including independent researcher Anthony Zola, Chulalongkorn University professor Carl Middletown, Laos dam investment monitor Premrudee Daoroung and journalist Laure Siegel — will kick off the two-week exhibition with a talk in English starting at 5:30pm on March 16.
The exhibition will run March 16 through March 28 on the first floor of the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre.
In the meantime, you can find out more about the exhibition, as well as the state of the Mekong, on a special page on the SEA Junction website.
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