Laos is planning to dam a section of the Mekong River is a home to dolphins and a source of ecotourism income.
However, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has condemned the decision, saying that Irawaddy dolphins in downstream Cambodia could be wiped out if the dam is built.
“If the Don Sahong dam is built, it will lead to the extinction of Mekong (Irrawaddy) dolphins,” WWF Cambodia’s country director Chhith Sam Ath said.
“Dolphins are very important in attracting tourists to the region and they are a national treasure.”
The river ecosystem also supports the local economy and there are widespread fears that critical tourist dollars could be turned away if there is river damage and the dolphins become extinct.
The neighbouring Cambodian Government created a dolphin protection zone 180 kilometres long in order to insulate its local Mekong economies from the effects of river damage.