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.
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

Kurdish President: More Needed to Defeat Islamic State

In interview with VOA's Persian Service, Massoud Barzani says peshmerga forces have not received weapons, logistical support needed to successfully fight IS in northern Iraq More

Sierra Leone's Stray Dog Population Doubles During Ebola Crisis

Many dog owners fear their pets could infect them with the virus and have abandoned them, leading to the increase and sparking fears of rabies More

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

New methods for mapping pain in the brain not only validate sufferers of chronic pain but might someday also lead to better treatment More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Paini
Shelley Schlender
April 20, 2015 7:03 PM
Pain has a purpose - it can stop you from touching a flame or from walking on a broken leg. As an injury heals, the pain goes away. Usually. But worldwide, one out of every five people suffers from pain that lasts for months and years, leading to lost jobs, depression, and rising despair when medical interventions fail or health experts hint that a pain sufferer is making it up. From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

Video Hope, Prayer Enter Fight Against S. Africa Xenophobia

South Africa has been swept by disturbing attacks on foreign nationals. Some blame the attacks on a legacy of colonialism, while others say the economy is to blame. Whatever the cause, ordinary South Africans - and South African residents from around the world - say they're praying for the siege of violence to end. Anita Powell reports from Johannesburg.

Video Italy Rescues Migrants After Separate Deadly Capsize Incident

Italy continued its massive search and rescue operation in the Mediterranean Monday for the capsized boat off the coast of Libya that was carrying hundreds of migrants, while at the same time rescuing Syrian migrants from another vessel off the coast of Sicily. Thirteen children were among the 98 Syrian migrants whose boat originated from Turkey on the perilous journey to Europe.

Video New Test Set to Be Game Changer in Eradicating Malaria

The World Health Organization estimates 3.4 billion people are at risk of malaria, with children under the age of five and pregnant women being the most vulnerable. As World Malaria Day approaches (April 25), mortality rates are falling, and a new test -- well into the last stage of trials -- is having positive results in Kenya. Lenny Ruvaga reports for VOA from Nairobi.

Video Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?

Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Military Action to Stabilize Libya

Thousands more migrants have arrived on the southern shores of Italy from North Africa in the past two days. Authorities say they expect the total number of arrivals this year to far exceed previous levels, and the government has said military action in Libya might be necessary to stem the flow. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.

Video Putin Accuses Kyiv of ‘Cutting Off’ Eastern Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his annual televised call-in program, again denied there were any Russian troops fighting in Ukraine. He also said the West was trying to ‘contain’ Russia with sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports on reactions to the president’s four-hour TV appearance.

Video Eye Contact Secures Dog's Place in Human Heart

Dogs serve in the military, work with police and assist the disabled, and have been by our side for thousands of years serving as companions and loyal friends. We love them. They love us in return. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on a new study that looks at the bio-chemical bond that cements that human-canine connection.

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Search for Bodies of Missing Soldiers

As the cease-fire becomes more fragile in eastern Ukraine, a team of volunteer body collectors travels to the small village of Savur Mohyla in the what pro-Russian separatists call the Donetsk Peoples Republic - to retrieve bodies of fallen Ukrainian servicemen from rebel-held territories. Adam Bailes traveled with the team and has this report.

Video Xenophobic Violence Sweeps South Africa

South Africa, long a haven for African immigrants, has been experiencing the worst xenophobic violence in years, with at least five people killed and hundreds displaced in recent weeks. From Johannesburg, VOA’s Anita Powell brings us this report.

Video Apollo 13, NASA's 'Successful Failure,' Remembered

The Apollo 13 mission in 1970 was supposed to be NASA's third manned trip to the moon, but it became much more. On the flight's 45th anniversary, astronauts and flight directors gathered at Chicago's Adler Planetarium to talk about how the aborted mission changed manned spaceflight and continues to influence space exploration today. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Badly Burned Ukrainian Boy Bravely Fights Back

A 9-year-old Ukrainian boy has returned to his native country after intensive treatment in the United States for life-threatening burns. Volodia Bubela, burned in a house fire almost a year ago, battled back at a Boston hospital, impressing doctors with his bravery. Faith Lapidus narrates this report from VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko.

Video US Maternity Leave Benefits Much Less Than Many Countries

It was almost 20 years ago that representatives of 189 countries met at a UN conference in Beijing and adopted a plan of action to achieve gender equality around the world. Now, two decades later, the University of California Los Angeles World Policy Analysis Center has issued a report examining what the Beijing Platform for Action has achieved. From Los Angeles, Elizabeth Lee has more.

Video Endangered Hawaiian Birds Get Second Chance

Of the world's nearly 9,900 bird species, 13 percent are threatened with extinction, according to BirdLife International. Among them are two Hawaiian honeycreepers - tiny birds that live in the forest canopy, and, as the name implies, survive on nectar from tropical flowers. Scientists at the San Diego Zoo report they have managed to hatch half a dozen of their chicks in captivity, raising hopes that the birds will flutter back from the brink of extinction. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Exhibit Brings Renaissance Master Out of the Shadows

The National Gallery of Art in Washington has raised the curtain on one of the most intriguing painters of the High Renaissance. Mostly ignored after his death in the early 1500s, Italian master Piero di Cosimo is now claiming his place alongside the best-known artists of the period. VOA’s Ardita Dunellari reports.

VOA Blogs