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EditPhoto Title:Greater Mekong
EditPhoto Description:The mighty Mekong River and the land surrounding it hold incalculable riches — riches that are in danger.
EditImage Url:/SiteCollectionImages/ci_22007578.jpg
EditImage Description:Woman rows to a floating market in the Mekong region.
EditPhoto Credit:© Amir Jina
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Map of the Mekong region. © Conservation International

Imagine a place with rivers full of fish, lush forests, incredible cultural diversity — even floating villages.


You’re picturing the Mekong Basin, the area that surrounds the Mekong River in southeast Asia. This region spans six countries, is nearly twice the size of California and directly supports the livelihoods of more than 60 million people.

It’s an amazing place. We depend on it.

But we’re also changing it — and not always for the better.

Why is the Greater Mekong important?

Food We Eat

The Greater Mekong has been called Asia’s “fish basket” and its “rice bowl.” The Mekong River produces 4.5 million metric tons (9.9 billion pounds) of fish every year, contributing about 80% of the protein consumed in the region’s households. The freshwater system is also critical for growing rice, which provides more than half of the daily caloric intake in countries across the region.

Water We Drink

For the 60 million people who call the Greater Mekong home, and the millions more who will be joining them in the years to come, the Mekong River sustains life. From its source high on the Tibetan Plateau to its delta in Vietnam, the Mekong provides water for countless people who live along its path.

Jobs and Prosperity

What if you depended directly on nature to live? In the Greater Mekong, this isn’t a hypothetical question. There, some 85% of the population relies on forestry, agriculture or fishing for their livelihoods. In Laos, for example, more than two-thirds of the population is employed in the agricultural sector.

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EditSection Title:What are the issues?
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EditCircle color:fact--brown    
EditCircle icon:icon-deforestation
EditResult value:95%
EditResult field:Tonle Sap forests lost
EditText:Deforestation
Large-scale clearing is a significant threat to the Greater Mekong’s forests. In Cambodia, forests inundated by annual floods provide the needed breeding grounds for fish and keep the lake vital and healthy. But more than 95% of the forests around the country’s Tonle Sap Lake have been destroyed by unsustainable agricultural and fishing practices.

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EditCircle color:fact--blue    
EditCircle icon:icon-dam
EditResult value:>100
EditResult field:dams planned for the Mekong
EditText:Dams
More than 100 dams are planned or under development on the Mekong River and its tributaries. While dams can bring energy to impoverished populations, poorly implemented dams can cause serious problems. Water levels downstream fluctuate, water quality declines, fish populations suffer and people’s livelihoods are put at risk.

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EditCircle color:fact--green    
EditCircle icon:icon-money
EditResult value:>$30 billion
EditResult field:in illegal logging
EditText:Illegal logging and wildlife poaching
Illegal logging and wildlife poaching are on the rise. In Cambodia, the amount of the country’s land covered by forests has fallen from over 70% in 1970 to approximately 40% in 2007. And endangered animals are being hunted and sold, leading to declining species populations and funding criminal activities and terrorism.

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EditCircle color:fact--orange    
EditCircle icon:icon-people
EditResult value:60 million
EditResult field:people affected by climate change
EditText:Climate change
Altered weather patterns, warmer temperatures and extreme weather are playing a serious role in the lives of those who live in the Greater Mekong. Many local villagers have little money or other resources to survive if fisheries decline or flash floods destroy their homes. As many as 60 million people in the region may be devastated by climate change.
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CI’s solutions

CI is working in the Greater Mekong to restore and protect forest resources and ensure that Cambodia’s Tonle Sap Lake and its floodplains remain a healthy, naturally functioning freshwater ecosystem. We focus on improving the well-being and economic resilience of the “floating villages” atop the lake — ensuring that people have access to food, safe drinking water, renewable energy and diverse ways to make a living.


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EditImage URL:/SiteCollectionImages/ci_94491816.jpg
EditImage Alt Text:Anlung Reang floating village on Tonle Sap Lake, Cambodia. © Kristin Harrison and Jeremy Ginsberg
EditCaption Title:Tonle Sap Lake: Conserving Cambodia’s Fish Factory
EditCaption Description:CI is working to ensure that Cambodia’s Tonle Sap Lake and its floodplains remain a healthy, naturally functioning freshwater ecosystem. We focus on improving the well-being and economic resilience of the “floating villages” atop the lake — ensuring that they have access to safe drinking water, renewable energy and diverse ways to make a living.
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EditLink URL:/projects/Pages/tonle-sap-lake-conserving-cambodia-fish-factory-mekong.aspx
EditLink Text:Read More

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EditImage URL:/SiteCollectionImages/ci_14779778.jpg
EditImage Alt Text:Areng River, Cardamom Mountains, Cambodia. © Conservation International/photo by David Emmett
EditCaption Title:Cambodia’s Central Cardamoms Protected Forest
EditCaption Description:Cambodia’s forests cover nearly 40% of the country and are vital for the local communities that rely on them for food and livelihoods. But poor enforcement of laws against deforestation is leading to the rapid loss of these forests. CI is working to restore and protect Cambodia’s rich forest habitats.
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EditLink URL:/projects/pages/cambodia-central-cardamoms-protected-forest.aspx
EditLink Text:Read More
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EditCall to Action Title:What can you do?
EditCall to Action Description:You can make a difference to people all over the world by helping to protect globally important ecosystems, like the Mekong’s Tonle Sap Lake.
EditCall to Action Button Description:Donate now
EditCall to Action Button Link:/donate
EditAnchor tag for sticky nav:actions[Optional]
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You can also help if you...

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Edit Section Title:Watch
Edit Section subtitle:Meet Sophy, a woman in the Mekong whose family has benefitted from learning sustainable fishing and smart business practices.
Edit Video ID:1DpFxuwgVHs
Edit Video Thumbnail (must be 16x9 pixel ratio):[Optional]
Edit Video Page URL:/pages/video.aspx
Edit Video image alt text:Video: Improving Lives in Tonle Sap Lake, Cambodia.
Edit Background image:/SiteCollectionImages/ci_93188989.jpg
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Button Section

Edit Section Title:Travel sustainably
Edit Section subtitle:Tourism is a major economic driver for the Greater Mekong — and there are steps you can take to make sure your travel has a positive impact.
Edit Button link:/pages/what-you-can-do-tips.aspx#travel-sustainably
Edit Button text:Learn more
Edit Background image:/SiteCollectionImages/ci_44083317.jpg
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More of Our Work Links

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First Image

EditTitle:Food
EditImage:/SiteCollectionImages/ci_73088367.jpg
EditLink:/what/pages/food-agriculture-and-fisheries.aspx
EditImage Alt Text:Woman harvests eggplant. © Benjamin Drummond

Second Image

EditTitle:Fresh water
EditImage:/SiteCollectionImages/ci_22439117.jpg
EditLink:/what/pages/fresh-water.aspx
EditImage Alt Text:Udzungwa National Park provides the communities that surround it with clean drinking water. © Benjamin Drummond

Third Image

EditTitle:Livelihoods
EditImage:/SiteCollectionImages/ci_35597459.jpg
EditLink:/what/pages/livelihoods.aspx
EditImage Alt Text:Fisherman cast a net to catch fish. © Keith A. Ellenbogen
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