News / Asia

Vietnam Forum Spotlights Regional Tensions Over Dams

FILE - A man casts a fishing net on the bank of the Mekong river in Phnom Penh.
FILE - A man casts a fishing net on the bank of the Mekong river in Phnom Penh.
Marianne Brown
As policymakers, activists and academics gather in Hanoi for a regional forum on water, food and energy in the Mekong, some are asking whether recent controversial dam projects show regional cooperation needs to take a different tack.

As a Vietnamese dragon dance opened the Third Mekong Forum on Water, Food and Energy, issues of governance and regional cooperation were introduced as some of the main topics for discussion.

Over the last three years, construction of the Xayaburi dam in Laos has proved one of the most controversial hydropower projects in the region, and tested the credibility of the Mekong River Commission, which represents Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Thailand.

Several countries raised concerns the dam could severely impact the fish populations downriver, but construction has still gone ahead.

Hans Guttman, the commission's chief executive officer, said he believes the project showed member countries could discuss difficult issues.

Carl Middleton, a lecturer in International Development Studies at Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, said he was not sure lessons had been learned, especially when it comes to public participation and consulting people about the impacts of dam projects.

Involving local populations

Last month Laos started building another controversial dam, the Don Sahong.

"The opportunity that cross-border agreements offer is the way of creating channels for responsibility to move across borders easily, it essentially failed in the case of Xayaburi because those mechanisms didn’t facilitate cross-border and the issue of justice got caught up in national territories rather than having a regional justice system. Can things be better for Don Sahong? We’ll have to wait and see," he said.

Forum organizer CGIAR, an international organization that funds research into agricultural crop breeding, hoped a new integrated map of planned and current dam projects in the Mekong would encourage governments to consider the bigger picture when it comes to their impact on communities and the environment.

However, Middleton said while mapping is useful, more needs to be done to include the people whose livelihoods are affected in the decision-making process.

"This is what needs to be discussed, that energy security comes at the expense of other forms of security that come from rivers, like food security and water security so the questions is how do you have more integrated policy making that recognizes the current value that rivers provide while at the same time helping meet everyone’s energy needs at the same time," he said.

Looking for alternatives

Middleton said while countries needed energy for economic development, it was important to think about alternatives to hydropower dams, which displace communities and sacrifice livelihoods.

Middleton said policy makers need to think about how to create policy frameworks that promote different types of energies, not just renewables, that can be met from the demand side that is fairer and more secure. He said the discussion needs to be done in a more public way because, at the moment, energy planning is very closed.

The forum concludes on Thursday.

You May Like

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

US Secret Service Head: White House Security Lapse 'Unacceptable'

Julia Pierson faces tough questions from lawmakers after a recent intrusion at the White House: 'It is clear that our security plan was not executed properly' More

Frustrated, Liberian Students Want Ebola Fight Role

Thousands have volunteered to go to counties, rural villages to talk to people in their language about deadly virus More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihadi
X
Mahi Ramakrishnan
September 30, 2014 2:16 PM
Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid