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

Sunni-Shi’ite Divide Threatens Middle East Stability

Analysts say ancient dispute that traces back to Islamic Revolution is fueling modern day unrest More

Shifting Demographics Lie Beneath Racial Tensions in Ferguson

As Missouri suburb morphed from majority white to majority black, observers say power structure remained static More

Video Artists Shun Russia's Profanity Law

Restriction is toughest since Soviet era, though critics reject move as patronizing and ineffective act of censorship in line with a string of conservative morality laws 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.
Native Bees May Help Save Cropsi
X
Deborah Block
August 22, 2014 12:23 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video Native Bees May Help Save Crops

U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video US Defense Officials Plan for Long-Term Strategy to Contain Islamic State

U.S. defense officials say American air strikes in Iraq have helped deter Islamic State militants for the time being, but that a broad international effort is needed to defeat the extremists permanently. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned Thursday that the group formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, is better organized, and financially and militarily stronger than any other known terrorist group. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Drug-Resistant Malaria Spreads in Southeast Asia

On Thailand’s border with Myanmar, also known as Burma, a malaria research and treatment clinic is stepping up efforts to eliminate a drug-resistant form of the parasite - before it spreads abroad. Steve Sandford reports from Mae Sot, Thailand.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid