A strange thing has happened to the Mekong lately. The murky brown, sediment-rich waters that normally power down 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 60 million people who live along its banks and leaving many experts to wonder what lies ahead for one of the most important rivers on Earth.
An upcoming exhibition is diving into the environmental catastrophe unfolding before our eyes.
The Mekong is Blue and Dried, happening at Bangkok Arts and Culture Center (BACC) from Mar 16-28, 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.
Image: Montree Chantawong / Mekong Butterfly, courtesy of SEA Junction
Spearheaded by non-profit SEA Junction, the Bangkok Tribune, the Samdhana Institute, and the 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.
Image: Mingkhawan Thuemor, courtesy of SEA Junction
Authorities on the issue—including independent researcher Anthony Zola, Chulalongkorn professor Dr. Carl Middletown, Lao dam investment monitor Premrudee Daoroung, and journalist Laure Siegel—will kick off the two-week exhibition with a talk (in English) on Mar 16, from 5:30-7pm at Corner Space, on the first floor of the BACC.
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.
Corner Space, 1/F, Bangkok Art and Culture Centre (BACC), 939 Rama 1 Rd.