Mekong forest facing sharp decline, WWF reports

May 02, 2013
A fisherman casts his net in the Mekong river in Luang Prabang, on May 4, 2012. Demand for farmland may strip the Greater Mekong region of a third of its remaining forest cover over the next two decades without swift government action, a leading conservation group has warned.

Demand for farmland may strip the Greater Mekong region of a third of its remaining forest cover over the next two decades without swift government action, a leading conservation group warned Thursday.

Forests are being cleared for commodities such as rubber and rice while illegal logging is decimating many protected zones, WWF said in a report, adding a contentious dam on Mekong river will deepen already severe ecosystem damage.

"The Greater Mekong is at a crossroads," said Petter Cutter of the WFF, adding Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar lost between 22-24 percent of their forests from 1973—the first point of available data—to 2009, while 43 percent of woodland was stripped from Thailand and Vietnam.

"One path leads to further declines in biodiversity and livelihoods... but if natural resources are managed responsibly, this region can a pursue a course that will secure a healthy and prosperous future for its people."

Myanmar, a nation expected to undergo after the end of junta rule, is on a "deforestation front"—especially in its border areas—as are the southern Mekong sections of Vietnam and Cambodia, the study found.

The reform-minded government has banned the export of logs from next year in a bid to tackle rampant of its precious woods.

The WWF said large undisrupted areas of "core forest" across the region have also been fragmented by and rapid urbanisation, while swathes of have been converted into rice paddy and for .

If deforestation continues, the report warned that 34 percent of remaining woodlands "will be lost and increasingly fragmented" by 2030 with only 14 percent of core forest left, destroying the habitat of wildlife including tigers and elephants.

Laos' Xayaburi dam was also highlighted as a "key threat" to the ecosytem, saying it will have "devastating consequences" for 60 million people—blocking fish and vital sediment from reaching the lower areas of the water system.

The $3.8 billion hydroelectric project, which is due to be completed in around five years, has sharply divided the four Mekong nations—Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand.

Impoverished Laos hopes the dam will help it become "the battery of Southeast Asia" and plans to sell most of the electricity to Thailand, but Cambodia and Vietnam say it could ruin their farming and fishing industries.

The report offers glimmers of hope saying Thailand has made great strides to protecting its forests—the kingdom has an extensive network of national parks—while the other nations have all backed policies to prevent deforestation.

Explore further: Manatees could lose their endangered species status

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Mekong nations meet on controversial Laos dam

Dec 08, 2011

Energy-starved Laos sought the green light from Southeast Asian neighbours on Thursday for a proposed hydropower dam on the Mekong River that faces fierce opposition from conservationists.

Laos vows to address Mekong dam fears

Jul 06, 2012

Laos has pledged to stall construction of a controversial multi-billion dollar dam on the Mekong river until all its neighbours' environmental concerns have been answered, state media said Friday.

Laos says building of controversial dam on hold

May 10, 2012

Laos has postponed construction of a controversial dam on the Mekong, an official said Thursday, dismissing fears that the work was going ahead despite growing regional opposition.

Thai villagers in legal challenge against Laos dam

Aug 07, 2012

Thai opponents of a planned multi-billion dollar dam in Laos submitted a lawsuit to a court in Bangkok on Tuesday seeking to prevent their country buying power from the hydropower project.

Recommended for you

Genetically tracking farmed fish escaping into the wild

1 hour ago

European sea product consumption is on the rise. With overfishing being a threat to the natural balance of the ocean, the alternative is to turn to aquaculture, the industrial production of fish and seafood. ...

France fights back Asian hornet invader

4 hours ago

They slipped into southwest France 10 years ago in a pottery shipment from China and have since invaded more than half the country, which is fighting back with drones, poisoned rods and even chickens.

Tide turns for shark fin in China

4 hours ago

A sprawling market floor in Guangzhou was once a prime location for shark fin, one of China's most expensive delicacies. But now it lies deserted, thanks to a ban from official banquet tables and a celebrity-driven ...

Manatees could lose their endangered species status

17 hours ago

About 2,500 manatees have perished in Florida over the last four years, heightening tension between conservationists and property owners as federal officials prepare to decide whether to down-list the creature to threatened ...

User comments : 0