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

    Hope Remains for Rio Olympic Games, Despite Woes

    Facing a host of problems, Rio prepares for holding the games but experts say some risks, like Zika, may not be as grave as initially thought

    IS Use of Social Media to Recruit, Radicalize Still a Top Threat to US

    Despite military gains against IS in Iraq and Syria, their internet propaganda still commands an audience; US officials see 'the most complex challenge that the federal government and industry face'

    ‘Time Is Now’ to Save Africa’s Animals From Poachers, Activist Says

    During Zimbabwe visit, African Wildlife Foundation President Kaddu Sebunya says poaching hurts Africa as slave trade once did

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Ivorian Chocolate Makers Promote Locally-made Chocolatei
    X
    July 29, 2016 4:02 PM
    Ivory Coast is the world's top producer of cocoa but hardly any of it is processed into chocolate there. Instead, the cocoa is sent abroad to chocolate makers in Europe and elsewhere. This is a general problem throughout Africa – massive exports of raw materials but few finished goods. As Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, several Ivorian entrepreneurs are working to change that formula - 100 percent Ivorian chocolate bar at a time.
    Video

    Video Ivorian Chocolate Makers Promote Locally-made Chocolate

    Ivory Coast is the world's top producer of cocoa but hardly any of it is processed into chocolate there. Instead, the cocoa is sent abroad to chocolate makers in Europe and elsewhere. This is a general problem throughout Africa – massive exports of raw materials but few finished goods. As Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, several Ivorian entrepreneurs are working to change that formula - 100 percent Ivorian chocolate bar at a time.
    Video

    Video Tesla Opens Battery-Producing Gigafactory

    Two years after starting to produce electric cars, U.S. car maker Tesla Motors has opened the first part of its huge battery manufacturing plant, which will eventually cover more than a square kilometer. Situated close to Reno, Nevada, the so-called Gigafactory will eventually produce more lithium-ion batteries than were made worldwide in 2013. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Polio-affected Afghan Student Fulfilling Her Dreams in America

    Afghanistan is one of only two countries in the world where children still get infected by polio. The other is Pakistan. Mahbooba Akhtarzada who is from Afghanistan, was disabled by polio, but has managed to overcome the obstacles caused by this crippling disease. VOA's Zheela Nasari caught up with Akhtarzada and brings us this report narrated by Bronwyn Benito.
    Video

    Video Hillary Clinton Promises to Build a 'Better Tomorrow'

    Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton urged voters Thursday not to give in to the politics of fear. She vowed to unite the country and move it forward if elected in November. Clinton formally accepted the Democratic Party's nomination at its national convention in Philadelphia. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more.
    Video

    Video Trump Tones Down Praise for Russia

    Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is toning down his compliments for Russia and Vladimir Putin as such rhetoric got him in trouble recently. After calling on Russia to find 30.000 missing emails from rival Hillary Clinton, Trump told reporters he doesn't know Putin and never called him a great leader, just one who's better than President Barack Obama. Putin has welcomed Trump's overtures, but, as Zlatica Hoke reports, ordinary Russians say they are not putting much faith in Trump.
    Video

    Video Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Bus

    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Silicon Valley: More Than A Place, It's a Culture

    Silicon Valley is a technology powerhouse and a place that companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple call home. It is a region in northern California that stretches from San Francisco to San Jose. But, more than that, it's known for its startup culture. VOA's Elizabeth Lee went inside one company to find out what it's like to work in a startup.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora