We will hear more about rivers in the years ahead. Almost all the waterways on which our civilisations were built — and on which they still depend — are under threat in the Anthropocene era, from the Nile and the Euphrates to the Ganges, the Yangtze and the Murray-Darling. The main villains in Brian Eyler’s lament for Southeast Asia’s most important river, Last Days of the Mighty Mekong, are not industrial polluters or the fossil-fuel producers that have contributed to climate change and glacier-melt on the Tibetan plateau but the hydroelectric dam-builders of China and Laos. Eyler, director of the Southeast Asia programme at the Stimson Center in Washington, concludes that ecologically and commercially hydropower is fast becoming an “obsolete technology”. Eyler’s wanderings down the Mekong and his encounters with those who live on and from the river leave no doubt that the dams interfere with the vast fish migrations that supply Cambodians with most of their protein. Cambodia’s Ton...

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