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Mae Nam Khong
Course of the Mekong

Course of the Mekong

location PRC , Myanmar , Thailand , Laos , Cambodia , Vietnam
River system Mekong
Headwaters on the mountain west of Jifu Shan , Qinghai (People's Republic of China)
33 ° 45 ′ 41 ″  N , 94 ° 40 ′ 34 ″  E
Source height approx.  5374  m
muzzle South China Sea Coordinates: 9 ° 44 ′  N , 106 ° 36 ′  E 9 ° 44 ′  N , 106 ° 36 ′  E
Mouth height m
Height difference approx. 5374 m
Bottom slope approx. 1.2 ‰
length 4350 km (according to other sources 4500 km)
Catchment area 795,000 km² (according to other sources 810,000 km²)
Outflow at the Vientiane gauge MQ
4600 m³ / s
Drain MQ
15,000 m³ / s
Left tributaries Nanla , Nam Tha , Nam Ou , Nam Khan
Right tributaries Ruak , Mae Nam Mun , Tonle Sap , Kok
Big cities Vientiane , Phnom Penh
Medium-sized cities Luang Prabang , Kratie
Mekong in Chiang Rai Province (Thailand)

Mekong in Chiang Rai Province (Thailand)

Mekong near Chiang Khan (Loei Province, Thailand) in the dry season

Mekong near Chiang Khan ( Loei Province , Thailand) in the dry season

Mekong in Chiang Khan (Loei Province, Thailand)

Mekong in Chiang Khan (Loei Province, Thailand)

Mekong near the provincial capital Nong Khai (Thailand), the other bank shows Laos

Mekong near the provincial capital Nong Khai (Thailand), the other bank shows Laos

First Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge in Nong Khai

First Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge in Nong Khai

Khon Phapheng waterfall in southern Laos, just before the border with Cambodia

Khon Phapheng waterfall in southern Laos, just before the border with Cambodia

The Mekong ([ ˈmeːkɔŋ ] or [ meˈkɔŋ ]) is a river in Southeast Asia that crosses six countries. Its length is given as 4350 km to 4909 km. This makes it one of the twelve longest rivers on earth .

River name

The different peoples along the river have different names for the Mekong:

  • Tibetan : Dza Chu ( Tib. རྫ་ ཆུ་ ), transcribed into Chinese Zaqu ( Chin.扎曲Pinyin Zāqū)
  • Chinese : Lancang Jiang ( Chinese瀾滄江 / 澜沧江Pinyin Láncāng Jiāng, "Turbulent River") or Meigong He ( Chinese湄公河 Pinyin Méigōng Hé)
  • Burmese : Mekaung Myit ( birm. မဲ ခောင္ ‌ မ ္ ရစ္ , Mè'kaung Myit )
  • Lao : Mae Nam Khong ( laot. ແມ່ນ ້ ຳ ຂອງ [ mɛː nâːm kʰɔ̌ːŋ ], also ນ ້ ຳ ຂອງ [ nâːm kʰɔ̌ːŋ ]; Mae Nam Khong )
  • Thai : Mae Nam Khong ( thai. แม่น้ำ โขง [ mɛ̂ː náːm kʰǒːŋ ], also แม่ โขง [ mɛ̂ː kʰǒːŋ ]; RTGS Mae Nam Khong )
  • Khmer : Mekongk ( មេគង្គ Mekongk ), also Tonle Mekongk ( khmer ទន្លេមេគង្គ Tonle Mekongk ), Tonle Thom ( ទន្លេធំ Tonle Thom , "Great River")
  • Vietnamese : Song Me Kong ( viet. Sông Mê Kông ), also: Song Lon ( viet. Sông Lớn , "Great River"), or Song Cuu Long ( viet. Sông Cửu Long , "Nine Dragon River")


The entire catchment area of the Mekong covers around 800,000 km², so it can be characterized as the "lifeline" of continental Southeast Asia .


The source of the Mekong has not yet been precisely determined, as it arises from several confluences in areas of the Tibetan plateau, some of which are difficult to reach . Chinese researchers give as the origin an area about 5200  m high near the place Ganasongdou on the north face of the Dangla Mountains in Zadoi County of the Yushu Autonomous District in the Chinese province of Qinghai . An earlier expedition led by the French anthropologist and documentary filmmaker Michel Peissel located the origin of the river further west at the Rupsa-La Pass at an altitude of 4975  m . An expedition in July 2013 redefined the spring on the mountain west of Jifu Shan at an altitude of 5374  m .

Upper course

Following the Tibetan highlands, the Mekong flows through the Chinese province of Yunnan . About half of its total length is on Chinese territory. It leaves China at an altitude of around 500 m and forms the border river between Myanmar and Laos for around 200 km . At the end of this stretch the Mae Nam Ruak flows into the Mekong, creating the triangle ( Golden Triangle ) between Laos, Myanmar and Thailand . This point also marks the transition from the upper to the lower Mekong.

Lower course

The river then forms the border between Laos and Thailand, flowing in a loop through partly deep gorges and rapids through northwestern Laos to Luang Prabang. There is a lot of shipping traffic on this section of the river, and tourism is also very popular. From Luang Prabang the traffic slackens considerably, the public shipping was stopped after the completion of the national road 14 years ago because of the numerous rapids. The first, highly controversial Laotian Mekong dam has been under construction near Xanabouri since 2013, the generation of which is supposed to bring the state important foreign currency. Further south, the Mekong forms the border with Thailand for several hundred kilometers, passes the Laotian capital Vientiane , until it reaches the far south of the country again inland through the Si Phan Don region ("Four Thousand Islands") and the city of Pakse ( French Pakxé ) flows. Here the mean flow rate is 9000 m³ / s, in April about 1500 m³ / s and in August about 25,000 m³ / s. In the Si Phan Don area there are several waterfalls that compensate for a difference in height of up to 15 meters.

The Mekong leaves Laos southeast of the city of Muang Khong and then flows through Cambodia . The Sambor waterfalls near the Cambodian city of Kratie are the last obstacle that interrupts navigability up to the mouth of the river. The surrounding area has a flatter characteristic, which favors the extensive intensive agriculture there; rice in particular , but also maize , sugar cane , tobacco and fruit are cultivated along the entire lower reaches of the river.

Since the current carries huge and also strongly varying water masses, in some of the landscapes through which the Mekong flows during the monsoons , i.e. in the summer months - on the lower reaches with several weeks delay - the water level is 10 to 15 meters above the low water level in winter.

Just north of the capital of Cambodia, Phnom Penh , the Tonle Sap River flows into the Mekong. There is a rare and unique geographical feature here: The Tonle Sap River, which is fed by the Tonle Sap Lake , changes direction of flow when the Mekong floods and its water masses push into the tributary and fills then every year for several months the lake, of which it normally drains. Only when the monsoons and the flood levels recede does the river reverse its direction and the water of the lake flows off towards the Mekong towards the sea. This change in current is celebrated at the traditional Bon Om Touk water festival. On November 22nd, 2010 the crowd on a bridge caused a mass panic with at least 375 dead.

Directly after Phnom Penh, the river is divided into two parts, the Bassac and the Mekong proper, which runs parallel.

Mekong Delta

Main article: Mekong Delta

The Mekong flows from Cambodia, now at a width that can be measured in kilometers, across the border into the south of Vietnam . South of Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon ) now broaden the twin rivers, including Tien Giang Province or Sông Tiền ( "Upper Mekong") and Hậu Giang or Sông Hậu ( "Lower Mekong") called for about 70,000  square kilometers extended Mekong Delta and stream into the South China Sea .

The nine main arms of the extensive estuary, which are more differentiated from the population of Vietnam, also led to the Vietnamese nickname Song Cửu Long , "nine dragon river".

The delta area is naturally very flat as alluvial land. Due to the suspended matter deposited by the river, which turns the water yellow-brown, it is very fertile and forms the southern "rice chamber" of Vietnam. The delta is relatively densely populated and is criss-crossed by an unmistakable network of canals, some of which are several meters above the level of the fields. There are few solid roads in the Mekong Delta: National Road 1 as the main route has its southernmost point in the city of Cà Mau .

The greater part of the traffic and the handling of goods takes place on the water; The so-called "floating markets", where trading takes place exclusively on the ships, are known.

The southernmost part of the Mekong Delta, which stretches for about 70 km between Ca Mau and the coast of the South China Sea and the Gulf of Thailand , is for the most part crossed by swamps and can only be navigated on water.

In 2001 the first bridge was built over the Mekong in Vietnam, a technically difficult undertaking as the entire Mekong Delta has no solid ground. The pile foundations of the pylons of the cable-stayed bridge , which is over 1,000 meters long , were funded by the state of Australia and were built by the Bilfinger Berger company. Until then, cities like Cần Thơ , Mỹ Tho , Long Xuyên and Rach Gia could only be reached by ferry.

Economical meaning

Reservoirs and power plants

In the Chinese province of Yunnan , the Western Development Program is to build a planned cascade of eight dams over a distance of 800 km.

The Chinese government is currently pushing the construction of several large dams on the upper reaches. The countries on the lower reaches fear serious consequences for the entire catchment area, such as the absence of seasonal floods.

Dams are also planned in Laos, such as the Sayaburi Dam , the first groundbreaking of which will take place on November 7, 2012 (e). Environmental groups such as WWF fear serious effects on the environment and agriculture in the lower reaches.


The Sambor waterfalls near the Cambodian city ​​of Kratie are the last obstacle that interrupts navigability up to the mouth of the river. The surrounding area has a flatter characteristic, which favors the extensive intensive agriculture there; rice in particular , but also maize , sugar cane , tobacco and fruit are cultivated along the entire lower reaches of this river.


With more than 1,200 fish species, including giant fish such as the Mekong giant catfish and the freshwater stingray Himantura chaophraya , which could be the largest fish in the world that live permanently in freshwater, the giant mullet ( Cathlocarpio siamensis ), as well as countless species of birds and reptiles, it is one of the five most biodiverse rivers in the world.

Sustainable development

Disputes between the governments of the countries traversed by the Mekong over its sustainable development and use, such as the construction of dams, led in the 1950s to the establishment of the Mekong Committee (1957–1978) in which Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam participated. During the rule of the Khmer Rouge Cambodia left the group, the remaining countries formed in the Interim Mekong Committee (1978-1995). After the conflict intensified significantly in 1992, the Mekong River Commission was set up in 1995, made up of representatives from Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam.

In 1999 part of the Mekong was designated as a protected area by the Ramsar Convention under the name Middle Stretches of the Mekong River north of Stoeng Treng .

Mekong Tourism

In 2015 the Mekong Tourism Project was initiated by the Thai Ministry of Tourism. The aim of the neighboring countries involved (Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, China (Yunnan and Guangxi)) is to promote tourism in the region. Jens Thraenhart from Essen is the project manager.

Mekong as namesake

The asteroid (100936) Mekong was named after the body of water in March 2012.

See also


  • Dietrich Schmidt-Vogt: Dams on the Mekong. In: Geographical Rundschau. 56 (12) 2004, ISSN  0016-7460 , pp. 22-27.
  • Hans-Joachim Uhlemann: Impressions from the Mekong. In: Journal for Inland Shipping. 2, 2010, pp. 54-59.
  • Fabrice G. Renaud, Claudia Kuenzer (Eds.): The Mekong Delta System: Interdisciplinary Analyzes of a River Delta. (= Springer Environmental Science and Engineering). Springer Netherlands, Dordrecht 2012, ISBN 978-94-007-3961-1 .
  • C. Kuenzer, I. Campbell, M. Roch, P. Leinenkugel, T. Vo Quoc, S. Dech: Understanding the Impacts of Hydropower Developments in the context of Upstream-Downstream Relations in the Mekong River Basin. In: Sustainability Science. Springer, 2012. doi: 10.1007 / s11625-012-0195-z

Web links

Commons : Mekong  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Mekong  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. a b c Article Mekong in the Great Soviet Encyclopedia (BSE) , 3rd edition 1969–1978 (Russian)http: //vorlage_gse.test/1%3D075233~2a%3DMekong~2b%3DMekong
  2. ^ Pieter Neele: A New Source of the Mekong In: Japanese Alpine News ( Memento of July 11, 2015 in the Internet Archive ) 2014; P. 112
  3. Pieter Neele's Blog: A new Mekong source - the true one at last?
  4. That was a great reward. Luciano Lepre hiked the Mekong and discovered its source In: Tages-Anzeiger 23 January 2015
  5. Mekong Basin
  6. The country's biggest festival ended tragically. In: ORF News. November 23, 2010.
  7. ^ Probe International June 30, 2006 The Hydrolancang cascade. ( Memento from February 6, 2012 in the Internet Archive )
  8. A total of eleven dams planned. on: , November 6, 2012.
  9. The breach of the dam. taz report on the planned Xayaburi dam on the Mekong, February 23, 2013.
  10. Giants of the rivers before extinction: hydroelectric power plant is death blow for Mekong giant catfish. on: , June 27, 2013.
  11. D. Coates, Ouch Poeu, Ubolratana Suntornratana, N. Thanh Tung, Sinthavong Viravong: Biodiversity and fisheries in the Lower Mekong Basin. (= Mekong Development Series. No. 2). Mekong River Commission, Phnom Penh 2003, p. 5 (PDF)
  12. Supap Monkolprasit, Tyson R. Roberts: Himantura chaophraya, a New Giant Freshwater Stingray from Thailand. In: Japanese Journal of Ichthyology. 1990, Volume 37, Number 3. (PDF; 1.3 MB) ( Memento of the original from October 20, 2013 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  13. ^ Ramsar Sites in order of their addition to the Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance ( Memento of March 25, 2015 in the Internet Archive ),, accessed March 4, 2014.
  14. ^ Mekong Tourism , accessed January 24, 2018
  15. Jens Thraenhart , CV in English, accessed on January 24, 2018