Friday, 19 June 2009

Mekong dolphin on the verge of extinction

After the eradication of the dolphin population in the Yangtze river (1) in 2007, the Irrawaddy dolphins of the Mekong face a similar fate. There are about 80 left, according to WWF estimates:

Only 64 to 76 Irrawaddy dolphins remain in the Mekong, it says, and calls for a cross-border plan to help the dolphins.

Toxic levels of pesticides, mercury and other pollutants have been found in more than 50 calves that have died since 2003.

The Mekong flows from China through Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam.

"These pollutants are widely distributed in the environment and so the source of this pollution may involve several countries through which the Mekong river flows," said WWF veterinary surgeon Verne Dove in a press statement. (2)

The problem is that calves are dying int he toxic water of the Mekong. The reason it is toxic is, of course, because of China's supercharged effort to become industrialised, which is in turn driven by the west's insatiable hunger for cheap consumer goods, without too many awkward questions.

We could make the Chinese abide by stringent environmental standards, just like we could make then treat their workers with a modicum of decency. But that would cost too much, and would defeat the purpose in shipping our manufacturing base off to the third world.
1 - As described previously on lefthandpalm: http://lefthandpalm.blogspot.com/2007/08/yangtze-river-dolphin-extinct.html
2 - "Mekong dolphins 'almost extinct'," unattributed BBC atticle, published 18th of June, 2009. (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/8106323.stm)

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