Southeast Asia’s Mekong may be the most important river in the world. Known as the “mother of waters,” it is home to the world’s largest inland fishery, and the huge amounts of sediments it transports feed some of the planet’s most fertile farmlands. Tens of millions of people depend on it for their livelihoods.
But how valuable is it in monetary terms? Is it possible to put a dollar value on the multitude of ecosystem services it provides, to help keep those services healthy into the future?
That’s what my research colleagues and I are trying to figure out, focusing on two countries that hold the river’s most productive areas for fishing and farming: Cambodia and Vietnam.
Understanding the value of a river is essential for good management and decision-making, such as where to develop infrastructure and where to protect nature. This is particularly true of the Mekong, which has come under enormous pressure in recent years from overfishing, dam building and climate change, and where decisions about development projects often do not take environmental costs into account.
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