06/22/2013, 00.00
CAMBODIA - LAOS - VIETNAM
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Xayaburi dam threatens survival of the giant catfish

The alarm sounded by WWF scientists, the species can measure up to three meters and 300 kg in weight. Less than two hundred specimens remain. The dam is an "insurmountable barrier", which blocks the migration for reproduction. Health of Mekong River worsens.

Phnom Penh (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The Xayaburi dam (northern Laos) and many hydroelectric plants along the lower Mekong, the most important river of south-east Asia, are likely to lead to the extinction the giant catfish, denounces the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), in a recent study. Considered one of the "biggest" and "rarest freshwater fish"- it can reach up to three meters in length and 300 kg in weight - the giant catfish travels hundreds of miles to the north of Thailand from Cambodia to lay their eggs. However, the barriers set up by the dams could erase the unique species from its natural habitat forever.

Among the many plants built or under construction, the most fearsome for the giant catfish isthe Xayaburi dam, which would become a sort of "insurmountable barrier" for the m igrant. The latest estimates remain less than two hundred, unable to overcome - add WWF experts - the "great barriers of dams", to reach the northern areas where it is usually reproduce.

Until 1990, the giant catfish was widespread throughout the course of the Mekong River, from Myanmar to the southwest of China. Over the past two decades, the population decreased with increasing speed and today is limited to certain traits that run through Laos and Cambodia. The area governments have prohibited fishing, but it can happen that some species falling into the hands of poachers or captured accidentally. Lifeng Li, WWF expert, points out that "it is a symbol of the health of the river, because it is a" species very vulnerable. " "Surely his salvation - he added - is essential for sustainable development of the overall Mekong Basin."

According to the draft, the Xayaburi dam - at the time still in its infancy, with only 8% of the work done - is going to cost at least $ 3.5 billion and will have a capacity of 1,260 megawatts. Located in a remote area north of Laos, for the realization - entrusted to a Thai company - have lost their homes more than 2,100 villagers. The Mekong River Commission (MRC) has called for a 10-year moratorium on the construction, showing heavy impact on fisheries, with a decrease amounted to 300 thousand tons per year.

The Mekong rises on the Tibetan plateau and flows along the Yunnan Province of China, then in Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. About 65 million people live along its course, obtaining support from fishing (estimated to be worth $ 3 billion a year) and fish farmers. But now the river, 4,880 km long and considered the 2nd richest biodiversity in the world, is threatened by many projects of hydroelectric dams.

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