The Compagnie Fluviale du Mekong (CFM) is Indochina’s largest cruise company on the Mekong River. CFM has a fleet of four boats. Most of them are built in a traditional way such as the Toum Tiou, a fully-wood-paneled cruise boat built in Cambodia with ten double cabins, or the Lan-Diep, another boat conceived in a colonial style with 22 cabins. CFM flagship is the RV of Indochina, a luxurious boat with 24 cabins offering a colonial ambiance with its wooden panels and high standards of service.
Offering cruises since 2005, today CFM feels increasingly threatened by climate and environment changes along the Mekong River. Some four companies are now registered on the River with more likely to come and have indicated there is more danger from environmental damage than from competition.
Cruises on the Mekong River have a relatively short life, and this high season which is determined by the river’s water level has been seriously affected due to catastrophic climate conditions. Last April, the inter-governmental Mekong River Commission met in the Thai coastal resort of Hua Hin to discuss issues about the Mekong management.
Earlier this year, Thailand and Laos saw the River dropping to its lowest level in 50 years. Mekong water-level alteration would not only threaten the ecosystem in the region but also deprive local population from their living. Some 65 million people live along the river in six countries (Cambodia, China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam) with fishing, agriculture, and tourism being the main sources of income.
In February and March, boat companies had to suspend cruises in the midst of the high season due to the drought, especially between Thailand’s Chiang Rai and Laos’ Luang Prabang. In some areas, local authorities saw the Mekong plunging from a normal level of 200 cm to 35 cm with even some waterfalls in Southern Laos (Savannakhet) drying up. Since September 2009, hydrological stations in Yunnan, Thailand, and Laos have recorded rainfall significantly below average.
Possibilities would also exist for more short cruises north of Phnom Penh up to the Tonle Sap Lake. However, all Mekong countries and especially China must now act seriously to tackle expected effects of Climate change and environment damage along the river.
The Mekong River Commission (MRC) has launched a Climate Change Initiative, providing tools such as data and analysis about how climate change is affecting communities and regions with future possible consequences. The MRC is also raising awareness among governments to develop new technologies to mitigate the climate change effects and eventually to soften its social-economic impacts on local populations.