Siphandon (“4,000 islands”), in the southern part of Champassak Province, is one of the Lao PDR’s most important wetlands. Home to many endangered species, it comprises hundreds, if not thousands, of islands in the mainstream of the Mekong River upstream from the Cambodian border.
The rainy season in September reshapes the Mekong River at Siphandon into a complex hydrological system of perennial and seasonal islands, channels, and wetland forests, 14 km wide.
The larger islands are inhabited and the largest southern island, Don Khone, even has an old, disused 5-km-long railway built by the French as part of the Mekong bypass route.
Khone Falls, the biggest in Asia and possibly the widest in the world, are a barrier to commercial navigation. The endangered Irrawaddy dolphins (pa kha to lao) can be found near Khone Falls. Siphandon’s channels allow the passage of migratory fish and are a critical habitat for waterfowl and other wetland plants and animals. Siphandon supports a major fishery.
Islands and parts of the mainland are fringed with large tracts of forests that are completely or partially flooded each year during the monsoon season. Flooded forests are also spawning grounds for many species of fish, which are an important source of livelihood for the local people.
Siphandon Wetland Facts
Designation: No official designation-suggested as a World Heritage Site for conservation value
Area: 150 km2
Nearby Population: Champassak
Biodiversity Value High: Channels serve as a passageway for migratory fishes and acts as critical habitat for many fish species, waterfowl, and other wetland flora and fauna.
Tourism Good, particularly near Khone Falls
Environmental Issues: Destructive fishing practices, habitat degradation
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