Swimming the Mekong

Posted on 03 April 2005
Aerial view of the Mekong Delta, southern Vietnam.
© WWF / Elizabeth Kemf
Phnom Penh, Cambodia – Around 200 participants from as far away as England, Japan, New Zealand and the United States competed in a race across the Mekong to raise awareness of the river's biological and social importance.

The 10th Annual Mekong River Swim, sponsored by WWF, was held just outside the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh. Cheered on by large crowds along the river's shore, the swimmers – ranging from professionals and amateurs to the members of the Cambodian National Swim Team – competed in the approximately 700m crossing. 

Greg Hallen (9 minutes 13 seconds) and Bae Soo Jin (12 minutes 43 seconds) won the men’s and woman’s classifications respectively.

“We hope that the participants and spectators that came out for today’s event will have a better understanding of how important maintaining the health of this river system is for the millions of people, and thousands of other species, that depend upon it,” said Rob Shore of WWF's Living Mekong Programme.

The Mekong River is home to over 1,300 species of fish, including the giant Mekong catfish (Pangasianodon gigas), which can grow to over 300 kilograms and may have historically migrated up to 2000 kilometers. The river's annual fishery is worth in excess of US$1.5 billion.

Despite concerns about competiting in the Mekong's murky waters, organizers were keen to point out that while there is always a slight risk associated with swimming in rivers, the cloudy waters of the Mekong are a result of fine sediment floating in the water, rather than high levels of pollution.

"A key message of this year’s swim is how intact and clean the Mekong River is compared to many other very large rivers around the world," Shore added. 
For further information:
Rob Shore, Programme Officer
Living Mekong Programme
Tel: +855 23 218 034 (ext. 106)
E-mail: rob@everyday.com.kh