In This Review

Last Days of the Mighty Mekong
Last Days of the Mighty Mekong
By Brian Eyler
Zed Books, 2019, 384 pp

Eyler’s vivid travelogue and elegy to the Mekong River explores the threats to the river’s diversity. The Mekong supports more fish species, more livelihoods, and more distinct ethnic groups than any other river system. But dams, roads, railways, and tourists are changing all that—so quickly that Eyler was able to observe the process of destruction personally during the 15 years in which he led study tours through the region. China is a prime driver of the changes, with its scores of upstream hydropower dams and swarms of newly rich tourists. But governments and developers all along the watercourse are scrambling to exploit its natural and social resources. It seems too late for them to repair the resulting damage: mass displacement, reduced fish catches, stunted agricultural yields, and the loss of local cultures as young people leave the highlands “to melt into emerging modern lifestyles.”