A hub of human diversity, the Mekong region in Southeast Asia is home to 300 million people from hundreds of ethnic groups. Many people, particularly indigenous peoples, rely on the rivers and the surrounding ecosystems to live. As Southeast Asia renews its interest in coal and continues to build destructive dams on the Mekong River, the livelihoods of villagers in the Mekong River Basin remain in jeopardy.
The Mekong River is the life-giving artery of mainland Southeast Asia. Stretching from southern China through Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam, it is the second most biodiverse river in the world and home to numerous endangered species, including some of the last remaining Irrawaddy dolphins. The river and its tributaries also account for one quarter of the freshwater fish consumed globally.
Much of Southeast Asia, in particular the Mekong region is rich with natural resources which has made it a hotspot for rapid and large-scale development, and the region is now peppered with major infrastructure and resource extraction projects. Almost 30 dams are planned for the Mekong River, set to destroy vital fisheries, topple traditional agriculture, and wipe out endangered species, severely impacting the food supply and culture of those downstream.
With a history of precarious and authoritative governments, the threats in Southeast Asia aren’t only to the environment and food system. Local communities can be caught between powerful corporations and governments, and invaluable natural resources are vulnerable to many forms of abuse: illegal land grabbing, physical violence, imprisonment, and even death. Those who take action risk their safety.
What We’re Doing About It
Our training, legal, and campaigns programs shift power from global elites to local communities and frontline earth rights defenders. We help raise the voices of local communities and earth rights defenders fighting for climate justice, corporate accountability, holding extractives industries accountable, land rights, and stopping the harms of harmful mega-projects.
We have been working in the region for more than 20 years. We remain committed and well-placed to work on these issues until people’s livelihoods and the environment are no longer jeopardized by corporations that disregard human rights and the health of the planet.
Whether we’re helping downstream communities demand further Environmental Impact Assessments for the proposed Don Sahong Dam in Laos, supporting journalists who have been targeted for reporting on the impacts of the extractive industry in the region, or teaching young campaigners and lawyers a variety of social and legal strategies to protect themselves and their communities from destructive projects, we strive to put the power of law back in the hands of the people, and to raise their voices in the places that matter most.
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