This is what happens to the Mekong river at the moment. Uncountable water creatures and sixty million people living along this very long river passing through China, Myanmar, Lao, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam would suffer if we fail to save this beautiful river.
From 11-15 July 2011, I joined the social apostolate meeting on ecology Kompong Cham, Cambodia, as one of three scholastics among 46 participants. The meeting awakened my awareness and concerns of the importance of environmental sustainability for our home planet.
The first two days, we were given a time to reflect and be grateful for the gift of the Mekong river. To make it real and touch the very sense of our spiritual side, we strolled along the Mekong riverbank on our way back to the hotel at the end of the day. We walked about 20 minutes in the rain, encountering the culture and the day-to-day activities of the people living in Kompong Cham. People were sitting and chatting on the promenade, doing physical exercises, gazing at the beauty of the river, and some were doing business by selling food and drinks for the passersby.
We learned from Pedro Walpole, the main speaker of this meeting, that the present Mekong was heavily polluted with waste and garbage, and damaged by overexploitation. In some areas, people are making money off it by taking out sand from the bottom of the river and selling it. As we looked at the river from the hotel, we saw that is was more dead than alive: the river looked dirty, brown in color, and not interesting at all. I imagined the Mekong clean and beautiful, as it might have been in the past.
From Fr. Gabby Lamug-Nañawa, we learned that the damage of the Mekong river ecosystem had been affecting the Cambodian economy. It had reduced the income of the people earning their living from the Mekong. A few years ago, fish have started decreasing in number as a result of the environmental damage. Fishermen have hard time nowadays to catch fish and they make less money than before. There are few fish and then ones they find are no bigger than a palm.
This experience led me to reflect deeper on the words of the 35th General Congregation on Reconciliation with Creation. The true reconciliation with creation is our care of the environment. Every created thing is the expression of God's grace and love in the world, and we as human beings are chosen and entrusted to take care of all created things. This care affects the quality of our relationship with God, with other human beings, and with creation itself. As a result of this five day ecological meeting, I believe that we need to begin our care of the environment starting from the very simple one, namely our personal life and our community life.
Scholastic Pieter Dolle SJ
Jl. Salemba Bluntas C222
Images from Jesuit Service Cambodia show how the recent floods in Cambodia have devastated the banks of the Mekong