The Mekong flows for approximately 4,350 kilometers (2,700 miles) from its headwaters and is shared by six countries: Tibet/China, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam. Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam, were granted independence from France in 1954. Following positive diplomatic ties between Vietnam and the U.S. in 1995, all of these states, except for China, entered into the Agreement on the Cooperation for the Sustainable Development of the Mekong River. As part of that Agreement, the four states acknowledged that the Mekong River Basin and the related natural resources and environment are very important natural assets of immense value to each of them and their peoples. However, in 2010, the Lao and Thai governments commenced construction of the 1,285 megawatt Xayaburi Dam on the Mekong River, in violation of the treaty. The dam, expected to begin operating in 2020, will destroy the Mekong’s rich fisheries, cause the relocation of thousands of people, and destroy a thousand-year effort at self-sufficiency.
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