The Salween is a transboundary river connecting the people, ecosystems, and states of China, Myanmar, and Thailand. Over its 2,820 kilometer course, more than 10 million people live throughout its basin, comprising at least 16 ethnic groups, many of whom depend on the river that represents a multifaceted habitat of cultural, ecological, historical and political values. In the remote region of Myanmar's northern Karen State overshadowed for decades by civil war, the forested mountains inhabited by the indigenous Karen people may seem to be an unlikely sanctuary for wildlife, however they contain one of Myanmar's last great wilderness.


The Salween River is one of the last major free-flowing rivers in Southeast Asia. Now threatened by state and foreign companies’ plans for ecologically destructive development, the indigenous Karen people have established a 5,485 square-kilometre Indigenous and Community Conserved Area (ICCA) in its basin, aimed at providing a bottom up alternative to natural resource management and enshrining the rights to sustainable livelihoods for their people. These communities who across generations have evolved around traditional practices, view the natural environment as a home and source of food security, culture and social identity. Hence, at its heart, this ongoing work is an exploration of the coexistence between environmental and cultural conservation, built upon Karen's indigenous knowledge, beliefs, sacred rituals and cultural practices that focus on their intimate relationship with the local biodiversity.