News / Asia

Ecology of Mekong Basin May Hinge on Hydroelectric Vote

Construction worker surveys construction of power plant for Nam Theun 2 dam, south of Vientiane, Laos (file photo).
Construction worker surveys construction of power plant for Nam Theun 2 dam, south of Vientiane, Laos (file photo).
Ron Corben

As Southeast Asia copes with some of the worst flooding in decades, a series of planned hydroelectric dams in the Mekong Basin are coming under increased scrutiny by environmental experts.

An upcoming vote on the Laos government's proposed Xayaburi dam, just one of 11 planned for the lower Mekong River, may indicate how the projects would have a broader political impact on the region.

Vietnamese and Cambodian officials have joined environmentalists in criticizing Xayaburi, saying it could severely harm fish stocks that are a vital source of protein to some 40 million people. They warn the dam will directly affect over 200,000 people that depend on the river’s ecology as well as millions living downstream.

Carl Middleton of Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University says strategic environmental assessment reports warn that Xayaburi would entail major changes to river eco-systems and put some 41 species of fish at risk of extinction.

"The project would largely block fish migrations routes for some of the most incredible species in the world, including the Mekong giant catfish," he said.

The $3.5 billion project, which would be the first constructed on the Mekong’s mainstream outside China, would generate 1,260 megawatts of electricity, some 95 percent of which is expected to be bought by Thailand.

Despite the concerns, Lao officials are still pressing for construction, whose final approval rests with the Vientiane-based Mekong River Commission, the group tasked with reviewing the project’s environmental and ecological impact.

The Commission, comprising representatives from Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam, is expected to deliver its verdict at a November meeting.

"The meeting is not a technical meeting, because it’s not a technical decision, it’s a political decision that will reshape politics in this very tiny but very problematic region of the world," said Srisuwan Kuankachorn, co-director of Bangkok-based Towards Ecological Recovery and Regional Alliance. "We have to take into account the impact of every dam because if one dam is allowed to be built it will lead to the developments of all the other dams."

Citing concerns over the impact on delta rice growth, Vietnamese government officials have called for a moratorium on construction until the full impacts from all the dams are understood.

“I personally think that the threats from the dams are one of the biggest threats to the Mekong Delta in its entire history," says Nguyen Huu Tien, an agronomist and wetlands specialist from Can Tho. "The key losses include loss of sediment load and the loss of fisheries.”

The delta region produces half the food output of Vietnam as well as 90 percent of its rice exports. The fishing industry in the delta is also a major contributor to regional and national economy stability.

You May Like

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More