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China, Asia leaders discuss Mekong dam projects

AP  |  Phnom Penh 

Leaders of nations along Southeast Asia's River gather today in the Cambodian capital amid a push by to build more dams that are altering the flow and have raised environmental concerns.

The meeting is chaired by Cambodia's Hun Sen and China's Li Keqiang, who are joined by leaders from Thailand, Laos, and

The stated goal of the Mekong-Lancang Cooperation forum, which was created by in 2015, is to promote sustainable development and boost the quality of life for the millions of people living in the sub-region.

Known as the Lancang in China, the River is vital to Southeast Asia, where more than 60 million people rely on it and its tributaries for food, and transport.

The world's 12th-longest river, the Mekong runs nearly 5,000 kilometers from the and down into mainland Southeast before emptying into the South Sea in The river's basin is home to up to 1,700 fish species, making it the most diverse basin after the and

Yet the river is also another potential source of regional tensions due to an increasing number of hydroelectric projects that are altering the flow and raising concerns of ecological damage. Vietnam, already locked in conflict with over territory in the Sea, says it is at particular risk of adverse effects.

China is the driving force behind many of the projects, having already built eight dams on the river since the 1990s and currently building or planning more than a dozen more. is home to most of the dams planned for the river's lower stretch.

China is also seeking to have parts or the river dredged or rapids cleared so that large cargo ships can navigate. Environmentalists have warned this could have dire consequences on the ecosystem.

In the two years since the forum's establishment, China has set aside billions of dollars to support 45 projects including resource research centers and cooperation on connectivity projects, industrial capacity, border trade, agriculture and poverty alleviation.

The forum is seen as a rival to the Commission, which has been around for more than 60 years but excludes China and

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Wed, January 10 2018. 16:05 IST