Jian Gao

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Location: Beijing
Nationality: China
Biography: Jian Gao is an award-winning freelance photographer currently based in China and U.S. He is the Pulitzer Center on Crisis reporting grantee (2016). Overseas Press Club Foundation scholar (2013),  Eddie Adams Workshop XXVI alumni. World Press... read on

Boasting a rich history, Southeast Asia is a region of strikingly lush beauty.  The Mekong River, which passes through China, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam, is one the Asia's largest rivers, as well as a key trading route connecting China to its southern neighbors. But the regions’ natural abundance also invites negative consequences.  Sand mining and dam construction are damaging to the ecosystem that surrounds the mighty river.  I travelled the river's southern half- from northern Laos to Vietnam's Mekong delta- to explore the effects of sand mining and dam construction on the local environment and population.  Sand mining and dam construction erodes the banks of the Mekong, rendering the river ever more shallow and unsuitable for both wild life and ago-old fishing practices, among other things. As my riverboat chugged steadily along the river into the sun- often with the rumbling of dredging machines in the background- I was struck not only by the region's oppressive heat but also by its sheer beauty. The Mekong's 2,700miles snake through some of the planet's most lush and remarkably fertile landscapes and its kind people who live along the river.

The primary purpose of my journey was to learn about the Sand Mine issue in the Mekong regions-the phenomenon that is eroding the precious sands there that is secretly growing in Laos, and booming in Cambodia and Vietnam.  Sand is a valuable resource that people cannot live without.  Building materials for shopping malls, roads, and apartments all come from sand.  But southeastern Mekong countries are struggling to find a balance between develop a sustainable life and make profit from their vital river.  

This is an ongoing project will also include Thailand, and the river source at the Tibetan Plateau in order to show the whole picture of the river and its people who are living along the regions.

For more images from this ongoing project, please visit:  http://jiangaophotography.photoshelter.com/gallery/The-Price-of-Progress-on-the-Mekong-River/G0000hd7bNjntnV0/

PS. All images were captured on Hasselblad Xpan camera, Kodak 160 negatives, NONE CROP. 

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