News / Asia

China Mekong Dam Project Generates Growing Controversy

China Mekong Dam Project Generates Growing Controversyi
X
February 26, 2014 8:05 PM
China has the greatest number of dams in the world, though its plan to construct a dam on the cross-border Mekong River is increasingly creating controversy. In 2011, the government in Burma, also known as Myanmar, halted the two countries' joint Myitsone dam project after protests at home. U.S. based experts think more transparency from China can help ease the disputes. Colin Lovett narrates this report for VOA's Liyuan Lu.
Liyuan Lu
China has the greatest number of dams in the world, though its plan to construct a dam on the cross-border Mekong River is increasingly creating controversy. In 2011, the government in Burma, also known as Myanmar, halted the two countries' joint Myitsone dam project after protests at home. U.S.-based experts think more transparency from China can help ease the disputes.

China not only has built the world’s largest hydroelectric dam - the Three Gorges Dam -- it also has the greatest number of dams in the world. Besides building dams in China, Chinese businesses are a top builder of dams abroad.

Chinese banks and companies have helped to build hundreds of dams in dozens of countries, particularly in Africa and Southeast Asia, according to figures from the group International Rivers.   

Methodology questioned

Richard Cronin, the director of the Southeast Asia Program at the Stimson Center, specializes in researching hydroelectric dams on the transnational Mekong River.

“Chinese companies are involved in four, possibly five, of the 11 mainstream dams, as well as lots of dams on tributaries," said Cronin. "So, China's role is a big factor in all infrastructure development, particularly in Laos and Cambodia. But it is also a particularly big factor in the development of these dams."

The methods being used to build the dams are increasingly coming under attack, however, because of the projects' environmental and social impacts. And China's plan to build a dam on the Mekong is causing particular concern.

Darrin Magee, an associate professor of environmental studies at Hobart and William Smith College, said, "I think one reason for the controversy is a lack of clear data. A clear understanding of how much these dams are going to impact flows downstream. Flows of water and flows of silt, basically.”

Lack of transparency cited

The Stimson Center’s Richard Cronin said China has no transparency because it does not disclose hydrology data, information Beijing views as a state secret. To further complicate matters, Cronin said government departments lack coordination and each dam is regarded as an independent project.

The most well-known Chinese-built dam in Southeast Asia is the Myitsone dam in Burma. Located on the Irrawaddy River, the $3.6 billion dam is a joint venture between the China Power Investment Corporation, Burma's Ministry of Electric Power, and a private company.  Burmese President Thein Sein suspended the project in 2011, however, after domestic protests.

At a panel discussion, Sun Yun, a fellow at the Stimson Center, said the Myitsone dam project is a classic example of Chinese policy-making by participants who have different interests.

“China's central government, which is Beijing, local government, which is Yunnan province, and the business interests, China Power and Investment, prioritize different things,” she said.

She said Beijing hoped to maintain good relations with Burma, while the Yunnan provincial government wanted to use the project to become an energy hub for China’s southwest. As for the China’s Power and Investment  Corporation, their main consideration was profit.

You May Like

Arrested Football Officials Come Mainly From the Americas

US Justice Department alleges defendants participated in 24-year scheme to enrich themselves through corruption of international soccer More

Video Kenyans Lament Al-Shabab's Recruitment of Youths

VOA travels to Isiolo, where residents share their fears, struggles to get loved ones back from Somalia-based militant group More

This US Epidemic Keeps Getting Worse

One in 4 Americans suffers from this condition More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Yoshi from: Sapporo
February 26, 2014 11:00 PM
If you US government and companies are interested in dam projects in Southeast Asia as shown by pivot-to-Asia policy, you know you are not restricted from offering your own bids. You can show your transparecy of your plan.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensionsi
X
May 26, 2015 11:11 PM
When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video US-led Coalition Gives Some Weapons to Iraqi Troops

In a video released Tuesday from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, Iraqi forces and U.S.-led coalition troops survey a cache of weapons supplied to help Iraq liberate Mosul from Islamic State group. According to a statement provided with the video, the ministry and the U.S.-led coaltion troops have started ''supplying the 16th army division with medium and light weapons in preparation to liberate Mosul and nearby areas from Da'esh (Arabic acronym for Islamic State group).''
Video

Video Amnesty International: 'Overwhelming Evidence' of War Crimes in Ukraine

Human rights group Amnesty International says there is overwhelming evidence of ongoing war crimes in Ukraine, despite a tentative cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels. Researchers interviewed more than 30 prisoners from both sides of the conflict and all but one said they were tortured. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Washington Parade Honors Those Killed Serving in US Military

Every year, on the last Monday in the month of May, millions of Americans honor the memories of those killed while serving in the armed forces. Memorial Day is a tradition that dates back to the 19th Century. While many people celebrate the federal holiday with a barbecue and a day off from work, for those who’ve served in the military, it’s a special day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Arash Arabasadi reports for VOA from Washington.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.

VOA Blogs