Environmental concerns also became apparent as we witnessed the plight of endangered species, river dolphins and Asian elephants. There is a paucity of wildlife along the river. Serious degradation of the native forest by slash-and-burn agriculture was obvious, especially in the upper reaches of the river in Laos. A further threat looms, as there are more than 20 hydroelectric dams in place or planned for the river and its tributaries.
The main stem of the river remains undammed, but construction of a first dam in the Laotian portion of the Mekong itself apparently has begun. One of the major concerns with regard to dams is the impact on migratory fishes, reminiscent of issues with dams on Northwest rivers.