News / Asia

Scientists say Climate Change, Dams Threaten Mekong Livelihoods

A fisherman casts his net in the Mekong River in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Nov. 7, 2012.
A fisherman casts his net in the Mekong River in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Nov. 7, 2012.
Daniel Schearf
Scientists meeting in the Thai capital have warned extreme weather caused by climate change will reduce fish stocks and major crops in the Mekong River Basin if countries in Southeast Asia fail to adapt. However, they also warn dam building, much of it for hydropower, is the largest single threat to fisheries that sustain millions of people.
                  
An estimated 60 million fishermen and farmers depend on the Mekong River for its rich nutrients and abundant fish.
 
Scientists say Climate Change, Dams Threaten Mekong Livelihoodsi
X
March 29, 2013 3:54 PM
Scientists meeting in the Thai capital have warned extreme weather caused by climate change will reduce fish stocks and major crops in the Mekong River Basin if countries in Southeast Asia fail to adapt. However, they also warn dam building, much of it for hydropower, is the largest single threat to fisheries that sustain millions of people. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Bangkok.

A new study by a group of scientists said by 2050 climate change could raise temperatures in parts of the Mekong basin twice as fast as the global average.
 
That would intensify extreme weather events, such as flooding, and reduce fish and crop production says study leader Jeremy Carew-Reid. He said, "In Laos alone there are some 700 species that are used by families to sustain their livelihoods. We know so little about them."

While some species will benefit from hotter climates, important crops such as coffee in Vietnam and rice in Thailand could be forced to move.
 
But fish in the Mekong system, the largest inland fishery in the world, cannot relocate so easily and fish farming has already reached its environmentally sustainable capacity.
 
Some 30,000 man-made barriers, such as hydropower dams, compound the effects of climate change, said Carew-Reid.
 
“When you take those in concert with climate change, we're looking at a pretty, a pretty negative scenario for fisheries in the basin,” he said.
 
Scientists at the study's release in Bangkok said dams and other barriers constitute the single largest threat to fish diversity and production.
 
Laos, controversially, is set to build the first of several hydropower dams on the mainstream of the Mekong.
 
Hans Guttman, chief executive officer for the Mekong River Commission, warns the extent of damage from the dams is still unknown.

He said, “How much damage is under intense speculation. And, whether all of the dams will be built according to some of the plans or whether some of them will be built and that will then cause a different level of impact, and how the benefits that are generated will be used to compensate or to deal with some of these impacts, is still very much uncertain.”
 
The U.S. Agency for International Development funded the study as part of its Lower Mekong Initiative.
 
Alfred Nakatsuma, the regional director of USAID's environment office, said, "The governments in general in these regions are very interested in climate change because the welfare of their people is at stake. And, it's better to address these activities now rather than later when they're surely going to be more costly.”
 
But just as economics are driving dam construction, scientists say poverty will make it harder for people to adapt to rising temperatures.

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Comments
     
by: Kitagawa Keikoh from: Daikanyama, JPN
March 29, 2013 9:14 PM
I am sure that nothing will happen even if tempreture becomes higher twice as fast as the global average. Do you really think one or two degrees rise of tempreture through over 30 years causes flooding, heavy rains and draught? It is nonsence. Scientists studying climate change should have a common sense before they study differential equations.
In Response

by: CrygDyllyn from: USA
March 30, 2013 5:50 PM
Glad to see that the US is not the only place cursed with fools who cannot read or think.
I could try to inform you, and educate you. But, I have found that deniers are educably handicapped.
And for your info...GW WILL happen. We have passed the point where mankind can stop it.

by: Meme Mine from: Toronto
March 29, 2013 1:21 PM
-Not one single IPCC warning says it "WILL" happen, only "might" happen and "could" happen....-Science will say comet hits are real but science will not say climate change is as real as a comet hit. -Science has agreed it is “real” and “could” cause a climate crisis for last 27 years of research.
-Almost all research was into effects not causes. - Upon settlement of North America these poor little Polar Bears were indigenous to as far south as Minnesota but called the yellow bear (summer coat), but still the same bear.

-Occupywallstreet does not even mention CO2 in its list of demands because of the bank-funded carbon trading stock markets ruled by corporations and politicians. -Science denied the dangers of their cancer causing chemicals and pesticides for decades. -Science is not a hall of truth and honesty, they are lab coat consultants.

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