Journal of Geographical Sciences ›› 2012, Vol. 22 ›› Issue (5): 874-884.doi: 10.1007/s11442-012-0969-3

• Ecology and Environment • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Pollution assessment of heavy metals along the Mekong River and dam effects

FU Kaidao1,2, SU Bin1,2, HE Daming1,2, LU Xixi3, SONG Jingyi1,2, HUANG Jiangcheng1,2   

  1. 1. Asian International Rivers Center, Yunnan University, Kunming 650091, China;
    2. Yunnan Key Laboratory for International Rivers and Transboundary Ecology Security, Kunming 650091, China;
    3. Department of Geography, National University of Singapore, 119260, Singapore
  • Received:2012-01-05 Revised:2012-04-25 Online:2012-10-15 Published:2012-10-15


The resource development and changes of hydrological regime, sediment and water quality in the Mekong River basin have attracted great attentions. This research aimed to enhance the study on transboundary pollution of heavy metals in this international river. In this study, eight sampling sites were selected to collect the bed sand samples along the mainstream of the Mekong River. In addition, the contents of 5 heavy metal elements and their spatial variability along the mainstream of the river were analyzed. The geoaccumulation index (Igeo) and potential ecological risk analysis were employed to assess heavy metal pollution status in the mainstream of the Mekong River. The results show that the average content of the heavy metal elements Zn is 91.43 mg/kg, Pb is 41.85 mg/kg, and As is 21.84 mg/kg in the bed sands of the Upper Mekong River, which are higher than those (Zn 68.17 mg/kg, Pb 28.22 mg/kg, As 14.97 mg/kg) in the Lower Mekong. The average content of Cr in the Lower Mekong is 418.86 mg/kg, higher than that in the Upper Mekong (42.19 mg/kg). Luang Prabang has a very high Cr concentration with 762.93 mg/kg and Pakse with 422.90 mg/kg. The concentration of Cu in all of the 8 sampling sites is similar, except for in Jiajiu with 11.70 mg/kg and Jiebei with 7.00 mg/kg. The results of the geoaccumulation index reveal that contaminations caused by Zn and Pb while Pb and As are more than those by Zn in Upper Mekong. Cr is the primary pollutant in the Lower Mekong, especially at Luang Prabang and Pakse. Slight pollution with As also occurs in Pakse. The potential ecological risk index indicates that the potential ecological risk of heavy metals in the mainstream of the Mekong River is low. We argue that the pollution of water quality and contamination of heavy metals in bed sediment caused by mining of mineral resources or geochemical background values in the Mekong is not transmitted from the Upper to the Lower Mekong because of the reservoir sedimentation and dilution along the river.

Key words: Mekong River basin, heavy metal pollution, geoaccumulation index, potential ecological risk index