Melbourne photographic exhibition spotlights impending ‘disaster’ for Mekong River

Media Releases article written on the 22 Feb 2010

A photography exhibition in Melbourne capturing the beauty and diversity of the Mekong River aims to highlight the dependence millions have on the river and the devastating consequences of 11 proposed mainstream hydropower dams.

The Mekong – A River of Life, hosted by Oxfam Australia and the Save the Mekong coalition, will be at the State Library of Victoria from 20 February – 19 March, after a run in Canberra.

The extraordinary photographs, taken by Melbourne photographer Glenn Daniels and Thai photographer Suthep Kritsanavarin, depict the way of life of fishing communities who use methods handed down through the generations. 

Mr Daniels met people in the Sambor district of Cambodia, set to be displaced by one of the proposed dams.

“Although the people I was talking to and photographing are considered poor, what really struck me was how rich their lives were – they have something that is worth protecting,” Mr Daniels said.

Exhibition photographers and Save the Mekong members will use the exhibition to raise public awareness of the issue.  Save the Mekong is a coalition of local and international organisations and communities urging the governments of the countries through which the Mekong flows to save this critical source of food, income and life for future generations.

The Mekong runs through China, Burma, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia, and is one of the world’s most productive inland fisheries, providing a critical source of food and income for more than 60 million people.

Oxfam Australia Advocacy Coordinator Michael Simon said if the proposed hydropower dams were built on the river’s mainstream, they would block major fish migrations essential for the food supplies of Laos and Cambodia.

“If these dams go ahead it will spell disaster for millions,” Mr Simon said.  “Not only will they stop the fish migration, but they will flood unique habitats and displace tens of thousands of people.”

“We know there is no way to reduce the impacts of these dams on the fisheries.  It’s also well documented that people who are forced to move because of dams are often pushed into poverty and marginalisation, their livelihoods and culture destroyed.”

Mr Simon said the Australian Government, as an aid donor to countries in the region as well as the Mekong River Commission  –– the intergovernmental body charged with sustainable management of the Mekong’s resources –– should use its influence to ensure communities along the Mekong were involved in all aspects of decision-making regarding the dams.

“Alternatives to hydropower dams exist for providing water and energy services, which will still allow the river to flow freely and preserve this unique environment for future generations,” he said.

 For further information, interviews or photographs, please contact Laurelle Keough on +61 409 960 100 or