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  • » 07/19/2007, 00.00


    UN project to save the rare Mekong dolphins

    An UN project aims to safeguard the species at risk of extinction and boost tourism in the area. Today the local fishermen live on less than 50 cents a day.

    Phnom Penh (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Safeguarding the sweet water dolphins of  Mekong, an extremely rare species which risks extinction, and re-qualifying the area to boost tourism and the local economy, where still today people live on less than 50 a day.  That’s the aim of a project elaborated by a United Nations team who intend to convert 200km stretch of the Mekong River into a leading eco-tourism destination. “The Mekong River dolphin is a treasure we must protect. It is the second tourism icon of Cambodia, after Angkor Wat” (Khmer temple found in the archaeological site of Angkor, near Siem Reap city), says Thok Sokhum, the Cambodian tourism official overseeing the development of what will become the Mekong Discovery Trail.

    According to the WWF, Between 80 and 100 of the dolphins are managing to survive in nine deep pools between the scenic town of Kratie and Cambodia's border with Laos; Conservationists have been warning for several years that the dolphins' demise is imminent, improving villagers' livelihoods is key to ensuring their survival.

    This is why the UN’s World Tourism Organisation will pinpoint areas for infrastructure development and identify activities that will provide new sources of income for fishing villages in a region where most residents survive on less than US 50 cents a day. These villages have seen their incomes plunge even further as patrols of River Guards, set up to protect the dolphins, began cracking down on gill-net fishing, strictly enforcing fishing zones and targeting illegal methods such as dynamite, cyanide and electric-shock fishing, which risk compromising the river’s delicate ecosystem.

    The project, which is being funded by the Cambodian government, the UN and the Dutch development agency SNV, has two phases: The first is an urban renewal plan for the provincial capital, Kratie that aims to turn the riverside town into a gateway to the country's spectacular but rarely visited northeast. Once the Kratie facelift is finalised, the Mekong Discovery Trail will be charted. This will include cycling paths and other eco-friendly activities that planners say will primarily benefit local communities and small-scale businesses, as well as the dolphins. The number of international tourists has been rising by about 20 per cent a year over the past several years, and is on track to surpass 2 million this year.


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    See also

    03/03/2012 CAMBODIA
    Phnom Penh: fishing bill to protect the Mekong dolphin
    Tourism, Agriculture and Transportation Ministries are expected to present a draft bill to protect 180 kilometres of river. The cabinet should approve the proposal in the near future. Fish cages and gill nets would be banned. WWF expert praises the proposal, calling it "essential".

    20/04/2009 PHILIPPINES
    Scientists warn more than 1,000 species are in danger of extinction in southeast Asia
    Climate change and human behavior are putting their lives in jeopardy. They include the elephant in Brunei, and the deer in Laos. Their disappearance could bring drastic changes to the lives of 500 million people in the area. The archbishop of Manila calls for the intelligent use of natural resources.

    28/11/2014 JAPAN
    Japan, rare albino dolphin captured
    The Taiji fishermen plan to sell it to a aquatic circus. Animal campaigners: "These rare, beautiful and unique animals will spend the rest of their life doing silly games in exchange for food".

    06/11/2012 LAOS
    Vientiane go ahead for Xayaburi dam. Bangkok agrees, environmentalists at war
    The Laotian Government has given the green light to the resumption of work on the mega-plant for more than three billion dollars. Executive denies there are environmental problems. Opinion shared by Thailand. Ecologists and associations: "devastating" plants that put the region's development at risk.

    19/04/2007 CHINA – HONG KONG
    Chinese White Dolphin in danger
    Since 2004 28 Chinese White Dolphins have been found dead in Hong Kong waters. Lab tests found significant amounts of pollutants in the carcasses. Many groups blame the problem on high pollution levels in local coastal waters and call for action to remedy the situation.

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