One of the main reasons of our long bus drive from Pakse to Don Det was to see the rare Irrawaddy Dolphins. We stayed for some days on Don Det one of the 4000 Islands (Siphandone) a beautiful region on the border of Laos and Cambodia.
The whole trip we paid for was a scam and we barely see dolphins- at least not the way I hoped for (jumping in the river, letting me pet them- little white girls dream). But there were a bunch of them swimming in the river and enjoying their time.
And then I heard Lao government plans to build a hydroelectric dam (Don Sahong dam) close to their place in the river.
Hold on there Laos, what do you think you are doing? Let me get it correctly:
- These dolphins are one of the biggest attractions of the region
- They bring loads of tourists to your poor country
- Irrawaddy dolphins are a specie THIS close to extinction (red list- “Critically endangered”)
- They are cute dolphins with round snouts
- That’s the only group of Irrawaddy dolphins in Laos
So instead of protecting them and preventing the extinction you gonna kill them off while building a dam? Way to go Laos!
So why is Laos killing their cute dolphins? Money is always the answer. Lao government plans to become “Battery of Southeast Asia” and build much more dams on Mekong River. Even thought the Lao government hasn’t received yet an approval of his project (from The Mekong River Commission), it had already started the preparations.
WWF has already spoken against it, but that seems to be all their work. You can also ‘adopt’ a Mekong Dolphing through their website. (http://gifts.worldwildlife.org/gift-center/gifts/Species-Adoptions/Mekong-Dolphin.aspx)
Of course I understand that this poor, landlocked country sees dams as their light in poverty tunnel, but such actions will not only hurt the dolphins but many other species in the river, will destroy natural habitat of other animals, declines in fish abundance and diversity and probably villagers will be forced to move out from the region where dam will be build.
And if you think that this is another ecological crap and ‘cute dolphins’ are standing on a way of region development, take one more thing under consideration:
- Most of Lao people in this region live from fisheries (their nets have killed dozens of Irrawaddy dolphins, btw)- how do you think building a huge dam in the middle of river will influence the massive fish migrations?
Unfortunately both, the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank are pushing for this project as there is already 7 hydroelectric dams in Laos. Last time I checked they had plenty on energy in the Four Thousand Islands region. I wish Champasak region took an example of Luang Prabang where eco-tourism flourishes or cooperate with Cambodia where the Mekong river is recognised internationally as a conservation site by the UN’s wetland conservation body, Ramsar.