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The Mekong River; Forming the Backbone of Southeast Asia

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The Mekong River is normally thought of as a tropical and Southeast Asian river. And it is not wrong to think like this. The river runs through 5 ASEAN countries (Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam) before emptying out in the South China Sea in Southern Vietnam. It is the world’s 10th longest river, spanning a length of more than 4,900 kilometers. But where did it start from?

The Mekong River is born out of the much cooler (almost un-Southeast Asian like in terms of weather) Tibetan Plateau and runs through the Yunan Province in China. It enters Southeast Asia via Myanmar and forms its borders with Laos. The river also separates Thailand with Laos before weaving into Cambodia and emptying out at the Mekong Delta in Southern Vietnam.

The Mekong River is the backbone of Southeast Asia. Many farmers and villagers depend on its waters and the surrounding flora. The river is also one of the richest areas of biodiversity in the world. For one, the world’s largest freshwater catfish lives here, able to grow up to lengths of two full grown humans and weighing up to four or five humans (3.2 meters and 300 kilograms respectively). Included in the Mekong basin is over 20,000 plant species, 430 mammal species, 1,200 different types of bird, 800 reptile and amphibian types and 850 fish species. That’s a lot of plants and animals!

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