News / Asia

Experts Warn Climate Change, Dams Threaten Mekong Region

In this photo taken on Oct. 24, 2010, the Nam Theun 2 dam on the Nam Theun river, a tributary of the Mekong river, in central Laos releases water to the river below. In this photo taken on Oct. 24, 2010, the Nam Theun 2 dam on the Nam Theun river, a tributary of the Mekong river, in central Laos releases water to the river below.
x
In this photo taken on Oct. 24, 2010, the Nam Theun 2 dam on the Nam Theun river, a tributary of the Mekong river, in central Laos releases water to the river below.
In this photo taken on Oct. 24, 2010, the Nam Theun 2 dam on the Nam Theun river, a tributary of the Mekong river, in central Laos releases water to the river below.
The region of the Mekong Delta faces multiple threats from climate change and impending hydrodams that likely to hurt fisheries, crops and livestock, experts say.

Changes in temperature and rainfall will increasingly threaten agriculture in the region, according an early release of some findings of the USAID-funded “Mekong Adaptation and Resilience to Climate Change.”

“The Greater Mekong Subregion is one of the most vulnerable regions in the world with respect to climate change and its effects on agriculture production systems, including fisheries,” said Ulrich Apel, an environment researcher for the Global Environment Facility.

Added to the potential threats of climate change are the many dams planned in Mekong countries, experts said.

The impact for 60 million people living on the Mekong River “could be disastrous,” said Aviva Imhof, campaigns director for the U.S.-based International Rivers. “By blocking the transport of sediment, the dams will contribute to even greater erosion in the fertile Mekong Delta, which is already threatened by increasing saltwater intrusion as a result of rising sea levels.”

The combined threats of dams and climate change could severely damage fish stocks, impacting food security for many people living along the river, particularly Cambodians, according to Zachary Dubel, a researcher at the Stimson Center.

“The Mekong River is the world’s most productive freshwater fishery, but it is being stressed by overfishing and fast population growth that looks to increase significantly over the coming decades,” he told VOA Khmer.

Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam rely heavily on the Mekong River, and these countries spend millions of dollars annually to protect areas of the river. But experts warn they most find common solutions to the impending problems.

The Global Environment Facility committed $92 million for a four-year project that ends in 2014, aiming to mitigate the impacts of climate change, conserve biodiversity in the region and fight land degradation, Apel said.

But it is up to the Mekong countries themselves to “work together to tackle these issues,” he said.

Climate change is a “transboundary” problem that requires a transboundary solution, Dubel said. The Mekong River must be viewed similarly, he said. “As a river that runs through six countries and provides a great number of environmental services to millions of people, it is vital that the river be managed collectively. That includes information sharing, as well as coordinated policies.

He added that currently it is not happening, and a number of dam projects are being developed by various companies with insufficient coordination. 

“Lack of cooperation on mainstream hydropower in the present has already created tension between upstream and downstream countries that threatens regional relations at a time when multilateral cooperation on issues, such as adaptation to climate change, is extremely important,” he said. “Furthermore, those dams that have been built already require increased coordination between themselves in order to effectively manage flows between them, particularly in light of the increased rainfall the region will receive in the future and threat of floods.”

Long-range and comprehensive impact assessments are needed before such dams are built, he said.

International River’s Aviva urged Mekong governments to reconsider the dams. Countries of the region need to make sure they are taking on “no-regrets” measures to ensure their economies are “as climate resilient as possible,” she said.

“The proposed dams for the Mekong region are also not being designed with climate change in mind,” she said, “with the result that some dams may be uneconomic, as there won’t be enough water to generate power, and other dams may be risky, as they will not be built to withstand greater floods and extreme weather events predicted by climate change.”

With 11 mainstream dams and scores of tributary dams planned, the impacts of climate change could be greatly increased, she said.

The Mekong adaptation report, whose full results will be issued March 29, found “shocking results,” report author Jeremy Carew-Reid said in a statement. “We’ve found that this region is going to experience climate extremes in temperature and rainfall beyond anything that we expected.”

You May Like

IS Militants Release 49 Turkish Hostages

Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency reports that no ransom was paid and no conditions accepted for the hostages' release; few details of the release are known More

Photogallery IS Attacks Send Thousands of Syrian Kurds Fleeing to Turkey

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says more than 300 Kurdish fighters crossed into Syria from Turkey to defend a Kurdish area from attack by the Islamic militants More

3-day Lockdown to Fight Ebola Continues In Sierra Leone

Thousands of health workers are going door to door in the West African country of 6 million, informing people of how to avoid Ebola, handing out soap More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calaisi
X
Lisa Bryant
September 19, 2014 5:04 PM
The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video CERN Accelerator Back in Business

The long upgrade of the Large Hadron Collider is over. The scientific instrument responsible for the discovery of the Higgs boson -- the so-called "God particle" -- is being brought up to speed in time for this month's 60th anniversary of the European Organization for Nuclear Research, known by its French acronym CERN. Physicists hope the accelerator will help them uncover more secrets about the origins of the universe. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctions

A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Belgian Researchers Discover Way to Block Cancer Metastasis

Cancer remains one of the deadliest diseases, despite many new methods to combat it. Modern medicine has treatments to prevent the growth of primary tumor cells. But most cancer deaths are caused by metastasis, the stage when primary tumor cells change and move to other parts of the body. A team of Belgian scientists says it has found a way to prevent that process. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Mogadishu's Flood of Foreign Workers Leaves Somalis Out of Work

Unemployment and conflict has forced many young Somalians out of the country in search of a better life. But a newfound stability in the once-lawless nation has created hope — and jobs — which, some say, are too often being filled by foreigners. Abdulaziz Billow reports from Mogadishu.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid