The Mekong River is an iconic river, the twelfth longest in the world, stretching over 4,300 km and draining an area just under 800,000 km². From its headwaters in the plateaus of Tibet, the river travels through China, Myanmar, Thailand, Lao PDR, Cambodia, and the southeast coast of Vietnam, where it spills into the South China Sea. The Mekong is a flood pulse river affected strongly by seasonal flows; during the flood season a journey through its system takes approximately 3 weeks, whereas that same trip during the dry season could take 3 months (Hori 2000). The region surrounding the river is the breadbasket of Southeast Asia, providing rice and other agricultural products for the inhabitants and the rest of the world. Through agriculture, fisheries, and forestry, the Mekong sustains the livelihoods of millions of people and supports a wealth of biodiversity, including many endemic species of flora and fauna. To the economies of Southeast Asia the Mekong is a source of wealth and power that provides hydropower, transport, and irrigation. The region is also home to hundreds of ethnic groups, making it one of the most culturally diverse regions in the world.
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