Mekong Eye

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Mekong Dams: Can Downstream Nations Expect Understanding from Upstream Developers?

The Mekong River rises from Tibet highland, running through thousands of kilometers in six countries, including China, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam.

Mekong means Mother in the Thai and Laos old language. As a result, it is not accidentally the name of the river has a blessed meaning. The river also plays an economic hub to feed for more than 60 million people and thousands of kinds of aqua products.

By Vo Van

Mekong River, January 9, 2017

FBNC

The Mekong River rises from Tibet highland, running through thousands of kilometers in six countries, including China, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam.

Mekong means Mother in the Thai and Laos old language. As a result, it is not accidentally the name of the river has a blessed meaning. The river also plays an economic hub to feed for more than 60 million people and thousands of kinds of aqua products.

However, the mother river is cut off ruthlessly by tens of hydro-electricity plants built and to be built on upstream and even on downstream of the river.

What impacts will these have on Vietnam and other downstream countries and communities? FBNC investigates in this video story.

FBNC report in Vietnamese with English subtitles

 

Experts said there are similarities between the Mekong River and the Mississippi in the U.S. Coincidentally, the fact that hydro-electricity power plants are being built on the Mekong river is the same happened in the Mississippi in the 20 century.

It resulted in severe damages in the Mississippi delta because of the changes of the river’s flows and climate change.

Deadly hurricane Katrina in 2005, more than 1,000 people died in the hurricane and total property damage was estimated at 108 billion USD. Tens of thousands hectares of land in the delta were destroyed. Particularly, the areas of mangrove forests and marshes which are considered as a natural fence for the Mississippi delta were driven to die since hydro-electricity power plants had prevented alluvia from going down the downstream for years.

Particularly, the areas of mangrove forests and marshes which are considered as a natural fence for the Mississippi delta were driven to die since hydro-electricity power plants had prevented alluvia from going down the downstream for years.

The Mekong faces similar issues, and downstream nations are grappling with how to solve these problems. Experts have judged actions taken by the Vietnamese government for the issues of Mekong River to be quite slow. The Mekong delta of Vietnam faced severe drought and salinity in February 2016. Until this time, December 2016, 10 months away, the government has still not drawn out any plans for the water resources in the delta. 20 million inhabitants are living there where rice farming, fruits and aqua products are the farmer’s products.

At present, the government provides farmers with financial helps in sporadic areas. Experts said it is necessary to have a master plan to change the economic structure in the delta in accordance to new circumstances in terms of climate change.

The World Bank has promised Vietnam a 1.7 USD aid for the clean water in the Mekong delta after the drought and salinity. There has not been any research on how to provide fresh water for industry sector and residential areas in front of shortage of water in the dry season.

Experts also suggested Vietnam should protect the mangrove swamp system surrounding beaches in the southern east. They said this task should be put in priority because hydro power plants in the upstream of Mekong river would make the delta into salinity and desertification as happened in the Mississippi’s basin.

 

This story was produced as part of a five-part series in collaboration with The Mekong Eye and Mekong Matters Journalism Network. The journalist and their outlet retain full editorial and copyright control.

Image: youths working on the floating market in the Mekong Delta: an area at risk due to upstream development and climate change. Source: The Mekong Eye

 

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