Trent Press Release



Two Trent University Students Prepare for South-East Asian Adventure

Trent University students Louise Utting and Rob Hughes have their sights set on some faraway horizons. Dedicated to increasing awareness of environmental and cultural issues, they have decided to embark on a challenging paddle of a portion of the Meking River, in south-east Asian, next January.

"We both had lots and lots of paddling experience and came up with the idea of paddling the Mekong River - through Laos - as an awareness campaign," explains Ms. Utting.

The Mekong River runs 4,800 kilometers from its headwaters on the Tibetan Plateau through Yunnan Province of China, Burma, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. According to the International Rivers Network, over 60 million people depend on the Mekong and its tributaries for food, water, transport and many other aspects of their daily lives. Its annual flood-drought cycles are essential for the sustainable production of rice and vegetables on the floodplains and along the riverbanks during the dry season. Known as the mother of waters, the river supports one of the world's most diverse fisheries, second only to the Amazon. Over the past ten years, more than 100 large dams have been proposed for the Mekong basin by institutions like the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Mekong River Commission. Some of these projects have already been built. One of the greatest threats is China s plans to construct eight dams on the Upper Mekong / Lancang. Two of these dams have already been completed, and construction on the third project, Xiaowan, began in January 2002. These dams will have widespread impacts on the livelihoods of Mekong communities and on the natural ecology of the river system.

Ms. Utting and Mr. Hughes plan to paddle the Laos section of the Mekong, putting their canoe in January in the "Golden Triangle," where the Mekong exits China and comes into contact with the borders of Thailand, Burma and Laos. They will then head south and follow the river to the Cambodian border, stopping at villages along the way.

The goal of the trip is to produce educational tools (such as video segments and slides) from the region to help educate Canadian high school students about ecological issues.

Ms. Utting and and Mr. Hughes will be searching for project sponsors over the next several months. A Web site will soon be established to outline project objectives and partnership possibilities.

For more information about Ms. Utting and Mr. Hughes’s upcoming trek, please e-mail

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For further information, please contact:
Louise Utting and Rob Hughes, students, Trent University

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