In an October 2011 meeting with scientists and Tibetan Buddhist scholars, known as the Mind and Life Conference, WWF’s Dekila Chungyalpa presented to His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, the strategies utilized by WWF toward sustainable dam development in the Mekong River basin.
The Mekong River, which runs from China to Vietnam:
- Provides a home to more than 1,300 species of fish, including the Mekong giant catfish (the largest freshwater fish in the world)
- Produces 25 percent of the world’s freshwater catch
- Serves as the main source of protein – in the form of fish – for more than 70 million people living in the river basin
Currently, 11 dams are proposed for the portion of the river that runs through Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. The dams would be an obstruction to migrating fish, including the iconic Mekong giant catfish. They would reduce sediment flowing downstream to the Mekong River Delta, increasing the vulnerability of this area to the impacts of climate change, such as sea level rise.
WWF supports a delay in the approval of dams in the Mekong River region until a comprehensive review of the positive and negative impacts of their construction and operation are completed.
During her discussion with the Dalai Lama, and the participating scientists and scholars, Chungyalpa explained that one of WWF’s strategies for stopping poorly planned dams is to work with a variety of partners, including religious leaders. Such leaders include His Holiness Bour Kry, who supports WWF’s efforts to protect Mekong dolphins.
This kind of skillful means is at the core of WWF’s Sacred Earth Program, a program where WWF works with religious leaders and faith communities to draw the connection between conservation and ethical and spiritual ideals.