Update on Mekong River dams and river dolphins

As mentioned in an article posted on this website on 8 February 2017, the construction of large dams in the mainstem of the Mekong River in Laos and Cambodia represents an existential threat to the small, Critically Endangered freshwater population of Orcaella brevirostris. Following the January 2017 workshop described in that article, a letter co-signed by the IUCN Director General and the Chair of the Species Survival Commission was sent to the Prime Minister of Cambodia, emphasizing the concern of the international conservation community about the impacts of dam construction on the Mekong dolphins and other biodiversity.

The dam issue was also discussed by the IWC Scientific Committee at its annual meeting in May 2017. The committee concluded that “if the proposed construction of large hydropower projects on the Mekong mainstem in Cambodia proceeds, almost all of the dolphins’ habitat in the Mekong will be modified or eliminated and the risk of extinction will be greatly increased.” The IWC Scientific Committee proposed two recommendations relevant to the conservation of the Mekong dolphin, and both will be addressed at the 2018 IWC Commission meeting.

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