Mekong River Climate Refugees

The pursuit of profits over people and environmental protections are creating climate refugees from the government level.

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Did you know you can educate people around you about our global issues? Next time you travel try to connect with a local and truly learn about their current events and issues. It not only makes you feel more connected to the place your visiting, but allows you to help by taking that knowledge and educate people.

As I was traveling down the Mekong River, I started to notice dilapidated homes falling into the river, and roadways washed away by the collapse of the riverbank. Most people would just soak in the beauty of their surroundings sailing down a river, but I noticed something was very wrong. After speaking with a local guide, I learned more. Her family lived along the riverbank and had to move their house repeatedly further from the water’s edge. Eventually they had to relocate. The locals believe this is due to Cambodia’s Ministry of Mines and Energy auctioning off sand mining licenses for sections of the Mekong River. The river has become a multimillion-dollar business. The entire ecosystem of this Southeast Asian River is under threat, all because of the world’s insatiable demand for sand.

I watched as a single sand pumping barge pumped sand from the riverbed. They have the capacity to take roughly 9,450 m3 (333,700 ft3) over the course of a day. Sand mining has destroyed the fish habitats and local communities’ homes and livelihood along the banks. It’s been shown to be the biggest driver of saline intrusion in the delta and results in enhanced bank erosion more so than hydropower. Sadly, the pursuit of profits are trumping concerns over environmental protection. The powerful set of owners behind the companies mining sand are known to be able to skirt regulations with impunity, owing to their connections to some of Cambodia’s most powerful and influential individuals. Like most countries Cambodia’s elite are abusing their power and destroying millions of local people’s homes and livelihood.

Conservation Travel Tip – The next time you’re traveling somewhere new try to be aware of local issues to educate those on a greater scale. We need all the help we can get.

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*All Photos taken of animals in their natural habitat undisturbed.