Both hydropower dams and global warming pose threats to freshwater fish diversity. While the extent of global warming may be reduced by a shift towards energy generation by large dams in order to reduce fossil-fuel use, such dams profoundly modify riverine habitats. Furthermore, the threats posed by dams and global warming will interact: for example, dams constrain range adjustments by fishes that might compensate for warming temperatures. Evaluation of their combined or synergistic effects is thus essential for adequate assessment of the consequences of planned water-resource developments.
While neighboring Thailand’s Special Economic Zones are now progressing without much public consultation or review, Myanmar may be moving in the opposite direction. Its three SEZs which were launched in the waning years of the junta, are now under the direction of the civilian government fully aware of concerns raised by communities and independent researchers, and inclined to take stock of what their predecessors set in motion. At issue are a whole range of social and environmental grievances, as well as the viability of the projects themselves and to what extent they reflect the new leadership’s priorities.
The China Gezhouba Group Corp. has signed an agreement with the Laotian government to develop a 35 MW hydroelectric plant in Laos’ southern Salavan province, according to reports from state news sources.
China Gezhouba will develop what is being called the Xelanong 2 project using a build-operate-transfer model, with construction of the US$72 million facility expected to take about 40 months.
Xelanong 2 and its 55-meter-high dam will be located on an unspecified tributary of the Mekong River and is part of the Laotian government’s effort to dramatically increase the availability of electricity to its population by 2020.
Other significant hydroelectric plants being developed in Laos include the 1,285-MW Xayaburi, 1,156-MW Nam Ou and 410-MW Xe-Pian Xe-Namnoy, amongst others.
Grain by grain, truckload by truckload, Laos’ section of the Mekong River is being dredged of sand to make cement — a commodity being devoured by a Chinese-led building boom in the capital.
But the hollowing out of the riverbed is also damaging a vital waterway that feeds hundreds of thousands of fishermen and farmers in the poverty-stricken nation.
“Today, it’s more complicated for us to go fetch water for crops,” DeamSaengarn told AFP from the muddy river’s shores, describing how its gentle slopes have given way to steep embankments.
At a meeting in Laos on Wednesday, the two sides agreed the route layout and related issues for the 760-kilometer expressway connecting the capitals of the two countries, according to Vietnam’s Ministry of Transport.
The agreement was reached based on results of a pre-feasibility study conducted by Vietnam’s Transportation Design Consultancy Corporation (Tedi).
The expressway is planned to start from Vientiane, passing through Laos’ Pakxan and Nghe An Province’s Thanh Thuy, and end in Hanoi.
Thailand may buy 9,000 megawatts of electricity from Laos this year to ensure sufficient supply to meet rising demand, says a senior official at the Energy Ministry.
That is nearly 30% higher than the 7,000MW Thailand currently buys annually from Laos, according to the most recent memorandum of understanding (MoU) the two countries signed in 2007. Of the total 9,000MW of power, most of it would be generated from hydropower, which is more cost-effective than fossil fuels.
A decade long mining boom, combined with a rapid development of hydropower, has seen Laos’ growth rate reach over 7 percent a year, allowing national output to more than double, generating some half a million jobs.
A key player in the economic progress has been China. A recent World Bank report on the Lao economy noted China’s influence was continuing to grow.
A research work by the National University of Singapore on the impact of the Manwan hydropower dam in China in the Mekong Delta showed that 160 million tons of sediment flowed to the delta each year in the past, before the dam was built.
Since the dam was put into operation, the figure has dropped to 75 million tons.
Since 1992 the Asian Development Bank (ADB) initiated the Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS) Program encompassing the five countries and parts of China. As of 2016, over USD 14 billion has been invested by the ADB. The GMS program is another flagship endeavor by ADB under the strategic pillar entitled “regional economic integration”. Furthermore the GMS Regional Investment Framework (RIF) 2013 – 2022 serves as the master plan for over 200 projects with an estimated investment of about USD 50 billion.1
Civil society-led impact studies on ADB funded GMS projects suggest that groups mostly dependent on natural resources bear the brunt of direct disempowerment from practices such as mining, logging, involuntary resettlement and road-building among others. Once removed from their rights of access to their customary resources, the ADB presupposes that affected communities will invariably integrate into new market-based economies. Most often than not, however this is far from the local reality.
Journalists from across the Mekong region met villagers, government officials and NGOs to understand and write stories about the costs and benefits of the Don Sahong dam. Mekong Partnership for the Environment partner Cambodia Institute for Media Studies convened 20 local and four regional journalists in Stung Treng from May 26-28 to learn about the dam and it’s effect on communities, the environment and the dolphin and fish populations.