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

Mugabe Dismisses Male-Female Equality

'It is not possible that women can be at par with men' incoming African Union president declares on eve of summit More

Somali Terror Suspect's Light Sentence Raises Questions

Abdullahi Yusuf, 18, could have spent 15 years in prison but judge instead sentenced him to a halfway house, and a program to try to integrate him back into the community More

Video Kobani Ravaged Following Kurdish Ouster of IS Militants

Even so, hundreds of refugees sheltering in Turkey seek to return; Kurdish forces hold some back, saying fighting continues 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.
Groundbreaking Hand-Painted Documentary About Van Gogh in Productioni
X
George Putic
January 29, 2015 9:43 PM
The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Groundbreaking Hand-Painted Documentary About Van Gogh in Production

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Super Bowl Ads Compete for Eyes on TV, Web

Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 1) is about more than just the NFL's American football championship and big parties to watch the game. Viewers also tune in for the world famous commercials that send Facebook and Twitter abuzz. Daniela Schrier reports on the social media rewards for America’s priciest advertising.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Freedom on Decline Worldwide, Report Says

The state of global freedom declined for the ninth consecutive year in 2014, according to global watchdog Freedom House's annual report released Wednesday. VOA's William Gallo has more.
Video

Video MRI Seems to Help Diagnose Prostate Cancer, Preliminary Study Shows

Just as with mammography used to detect breast cancer, there's a lot of controversy about tests used to diagnose prostate cancer. Fortunately, a new study shows doctors may now have a more reliable way to diagnose prostate cancer for high risk patients. More from VOA's Carol Pearson.
Video

Video Smartphones About to Make Leap, Carry Basic Senses

Long-distance communication contains mostly sounds and pictures - for now. But scientists in Britain say they are close to creating additions for our smartphones that will make it possible to send taste, smell and even a basic touch. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.
Video

Video Crowded Republican Presidential Field Off to Early Start for 2016

It seems early, but the 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign is already heating up. Though no one has officially announced a candidacy, several potential Republican contenders have been busy speaking to conservative groups about making a White House run next year. Many of the possible contenders are critical of the Obama administration’s foreign policy record. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone reports.

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

All About America

AppleAndroid