Mekong River Development Whose Dreams? Which Visions?
Routledge Taylor and Francis
Faculty of Community Services, Education and Social Sciences
School of Communications and Arts / Centre for Research in Entertainment, Arts,Technology, Education and Communications
We propose in this paper that the challenge to create a sustainable channel of commerce and prosperity in the Mekong River basin which contains 70 million people and encompasses the 230 million people of Cambodia, China's southern province of Yunnan, Burma, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam, represents the “last frontier” of Southeast Asia. Balanced, sustainable development has been pitted against purely economic objectives, which necessarily involve the taming of the Mighty Mekong by the investors, politicians, and technocrats who seek to build bridges, erect dams, and divert waters, disrupting the local lives which the river has traditionally sustained throughout a millennium of seasons. Now the voices of the people directly affected by the development projects have organized to express their alternative dreams for the river development. We argue that the Mekong needs to be envisioned from broad perspectives recognizing the symbolic and pragmatic dimensions of the river development from being more than a transportation route or source of commodity water, to “seeing” the river as a landscape and ecosystem worthy of preservation and protection for future generations.