Our Mekong, Our Say: Must the Environment Be Sacrificed for Infrastructure Development?

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Our Mekong, Our Say: Must the Environment Be Sacrificed for Infrastructure Development?

Infrastructure development―roads, railways, energy projects―is essential for improving connectivity and promoting growth in the Mekong region. Though these projects provide access to economic opportunities, many of them cause widespread deforestation and expose humans to wildlife.

According to WWF, infrastructure is among the primary causes of deforestation and biodiversity loss in the Mekong countries. As forest conversion brings human close to the wild, it increases the chance of illegal logging, wildlife poaching, and forest encroachment. This link has been observed in Laos and Cambodia, where infrastructure projects like mining, road construction, and dams are a common cover for illegal logging.

A recent Reuters report put a spotlight on the China-Laos Railway that cuts through the rainforest and extracts construction materials from untouched karst―the preferred habitat of animals that can spread deadly diseases to humans. In southern Myanmar, Dawei Road is planned to boost economic activities, but experts worry that it will jeopardize a biodiversity hotspot with at least nine globally threatened species.

This dilemma raises a big question: How can Mekong countries continue to benefit from development while maintaining the health of forests and humans? This webinar tried to answer this question while discussing case studies and solutions to explore a path forward toward sustainable development.

This webinar is part of a 2023 series on natural resources governance in the Mekong region. It is part of the Our Mekong, Our Say (OMOS) project through Internews' Earth Journalism Network, supported by USAID Mekong for the Future.


  • Urvana Menon—Technical Lead, Linear Infrastructure at WWF
  • Denis Smirnov—Independent Environmental Investigator
  • Ryan McNeill—Deputy Editor, Data Journalism at Reuters


  • Paritta Wangkiat—EJN Mekong Program Officer




This webinar is also available in Thai and Khmer.

Please click on the speakers' names to download their presentations. 

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