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Project May 15, 2023

The Human Stories Behind the Mekong’s Ecological Collapse



Vietnam’s southern plain, one of the most significant wetlands on earth, has been almost drained. According to the WWF, the Greater Mekong subregion risks losing over a third of its remaining forest within the next two decades.

The area has been transformed into an agriculture and aquaculture hub that is now feeding a growing population of 100 million people while producing 13 percent of the world’s rice.

But this explosion of output could come back to haunt Vietnam.

A team of Vietnamese journalists traveled across the delta to report and collect evidence of the destabilizing factors of deforestation, the damming of the mighty Mekong, and rapid industrialization. Behind the impressive economic growth is a humanitarian crisis in the making. Growing insecurity, poverty, and a risk to livelihoods could lead to waves of economic and climate migration.

This project serves as an overarching piece covering the situation. It will showcase profiles of people’s struggle and resilience as they adapt to a changing environment. It's the story about dwellers running low on water and fertile soil, mangrove forest rangers resisting illegal logging, bankrupted farmers, and young villagers who immigrate to industrial zones.

The Mekong River basin is home to over 300 million people in six Asian countries of Cambodia, China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam, and it is the site of large-scale projects with social, economic, and environmental implications. There are some questions left unanswered for the public about the reasons behind the massive environmental changes in the river basin. It’s difficult for journalists in one country alone to tackle it. Therefore, we consider this story to be the beginning of what could be a larger, coordinated effort of journalists from across the region.