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Natural Resources

The Mekong River Basin encompasses a vast range of geographic and climatic zones; as a result, it is endowed with diverse and abundant natural resources. Among the world’s river basins, only the Amazon possesses a greater diversity of plants and animals. On average, an astounding 15,000 m3 of water flows into the Mekong mainstream from the surrounding basin area every second – enough to meet the daily needs of 100,000 people. The water irrigates large tracts of forest and wetlands that produce building materials, medicines and food and serve as habitats for thousands of species.

The Basin contains many and varied wetlands that perform wide-ranging functions and sustain key social, economic and cultural values. Wetlands also play a vital role in supporting the livelihoods of local people, providing a productive environment for agriculture, aquaculture, capture fisheries, non-fish aquatic goods and tourism revenue. In addition, natural wetlands provide equally important indirect benefits, such as flood mitigation, water storage and wastewater treatment.

Mekong River Basin countries form a large section of the Indo-Burma biodiversity hotspot. A broad variety of ecosystems are present in the region, including mixed wet evergreen, dry evergreen, deciduous and montane forests, shrub lands and woodlands on karst limestone outcrops, and mangroves. Non-timber forest products provide an important source of income for rural people and supply markets with a vast array of plant and animal products, including foods, medicines, exudates and dyes.

Known mineral resources in the Basin include gold, copper, lead, zinc, phosphate, potash, oil and gas, coal and gemstone (principally corundum, including rubies and sapphires). The mineral potential of the Basin remains largely unexploited.

Wetlands

Extent of wetlands in the Lower Mekong Basin. Source: MRC, 2010

The Basin’s numerous and varied wetlands support essential social, economic and cultural values. The wetlands provide productive environments for rice cultivation, freshwater capture fisheries, other forms of agriculture and aquaculture and tourism.

Natural wetlands also provide equally important indirect benefits:

  • Wetlands absorb potentially disastrous floodwaters during the wet season
  • Mangroves in the delta’s coastal areas prevent erosion and trap nutrients that contribute to agricultural and fisheries productivity
  • Urban and peri-urban wetlands filter excessive nutrients and toxins from agricultural, industrial and municipal wastewater before it enters the Mekong mainstream.

Latest News

Laos urged to better assess impacts, provide effective mitigation measures, as Luang Prabang dam moves forwards

Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam requested Laos to conduct rigorous transboundary impact assessments and enhance proposed measures to mitigate potential adverse impacts

Flood and drought remain key challenges for the Mekong: Report

Extreme low flows and extensive flooding of different communities along the Mekong River in 2019 and an increasing number of droughts that have occurred in many parts of the region in recent years are among the signs that the Mekong region is facing incre

New strategy to address Mekong wide challenges near finishing line

A draft Mekong basin development strategy to respond to critical environmental and social pressures from ongoing and planned developments and climate change in the Mekong River Basin has now received a greenlight from a governance body of the Mekong River