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

Uganda Court Annuls Anti-Gay Law

Court says law was passed in parliament without enough members present for a full quorum More

Multimedia Thailand Makes Efforts to Improve Conditions for Migrant Laborers

In Thailand, its not uncommon for parents to bring their children to work; one company, in-collaboration with other organizations, address safety concerns More

In Indonesia, Jihad Video Raises Concern

Video calls on Indonesians to join Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, ISIL More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
In Thailand, Some Efforts to Improve Conditions For Migrant Laborersi
X
Steve Herman
August 01, 2014 6:22 PM
Thailand has been facing increasing international scrutiny as a hub of human trafficking and slave labor. Some of the kingdom’s companies are striving to improve working conditions, especially for the millions of migrant laborers from surrounding countries. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok takes a look at one initiative for children at construction sites
Video

Video In Thailand, Some Efforts to Improve Conditions For Migrant Laborers

Thailand has been facing increasing international scrutiny as a hub of human trafficking and slave labor. Some of the kingdom’s companies are striving to improve working conditions, especially for the millions of migrant laborers from surrounding countries. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok takes a look at one initiative for children at construction sites
Video

Video Public Raises its Voice on Power Plant Pollution

In the United States, proposed rules to cut pollution from the nation’s 600 coal-fired power plants are generating a heated debate. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, charged with writing and implementing the plan, has already received 300,000 written comments. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, another 1,600 people are lining up this week at EPA headquarters and at satellite offices around the country to give their testimony in person.
Video

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict in Gaza, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities. Probably the most important destination is the local bakery. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Gaza City.
Video

Video China Investigates Powerful Former Security Chief

The public in China is welcoming the Communist Party's decision to investigate one of the country's once most powerful politicians, former domestic security chief Zhou Yongkang. Analysts say the move by President Xi Jinping is not only an effort to win more support for the party, but an essential step to furthering much needed economic reforms and removing those who would stand in the way of change. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US-Funded Program Offers Honduran Children Alternative to Illegal Immigration

President Obama and Central American leaders recently agreed to come up with a plan to address poverty and crime in the region that is fueling the surge of young migrants trying to illegally enter the United States. VOA’s Brian Padden looks at one such program in Honduras - funded in part by the United States - which gives street kids not only food and safety but a chance for a better life without, crossing the border.
Video

Video 'Fab Lab' Igniting Revolution in Kenya

The University of Nairobi’s Science and Technology Park is banking on 3-D prototyping to spark a manufacturing revolution in the country. Lenny Ruvaga has more for from Nairobi's so-called “FabLab” for VOA.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.

AppleAndroid