Over 15,000 citizens in the region and around the globe have signed the "Save the Mekong" petition addressed to the Prime Ministers of Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Viet Nam urging them to abandon the plans to build new 11 dams on Mekong river.
It is reported that the petition was signed by fishers and farmers along the river's mainstream and tributaries, as well as by monks, students, city folk and some of the region's celebrities. Around 5,000 people from around the world also joined the petition by signing postcards and an online petition. The petition, which was written in seven languages, was hand-delivered to Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva last Wednesday, June 17, 2009, and sent to other government leaders within the region.
Dams building has been one of the most controversial environmental issues in the region, creating wide-spread concern among riverbank communities and the wider public over the severe consequences these dams will have. It is believed that China's dam construction on the upper Mekong mainstream has already caused environmental problems in the form of declining fish stocks, riverbank erosion and hazardous water level fluctuations in downstream Myanmar, northern Thailand and northern Laos.
The Mekong is almost 5,000 kilometers long stretching from the Tibetan plateau, through southern China, and then along the border of Myanmar, Laos Thailand, through Cambodia to Vietnam. Environmentalists worry that new proposed dams in lower Mekong will disrupt fisheries, which are a major source of employment and protein for some 60 million people in the Mekong River region. In term of biodiversity, the Mekong is also claimed to be a home to 1,200 fish species. Scientific studies reveal that the river has the second highest concentration of aquatic animals in the world, only after the Amazon.
The “Save the Mekong” campaign also coincides with a warning from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) which says that the endangered Irrawady dolphin, also found on a stretch of the Mekong, is at risk of extinction. It is believed that if proposed dams are built, it will have a further adverse impact on the endangered species like Irrawaddy dolphins and the giant catfish among others.