Scientists for the Mekong offer this article to inform the public, the delegates at COP21, and decision-makers worldwide about the impacts of hydropower development on the Lower Mekong River, and the serious repercussions for 60 million people in SE Asia. This article provides an overview of the many significant environmental and social impacts of hydropower dams on the Mekong River basin.
International rivers, such as the Mekong, are crucial arteries carrying the lifeblood of freshwater that sustains human existence and ecosystems around the world.
The fate of 70 million people rests on what happens to the Mekong river. With world leaders meeting in Paris next week for crucial UN climate talks, John Vidal journeys down south-east Asia’s vast waterway – a place that encapsulates some of the dilemmas they must solve. He meets people struggling to deal with the impacts of climate change as well as the ecological havoc created by giant dams, deforestation, coastal erosion and fast-growing cities
The Lancang-Mekong Cooperation (LMC) framework was officially launched on Thursday following talks among senior foreign affairs officials from China, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam in Jinghong, Yunnan Province.
FOCUSING ON THREE KEY AREAS
The Lancang-Mekong River is a natural link between the six countries.
At the first LMC foreign ministers’ meeting, they decided to cooperate in three key areas – politico-security issues, economic affairs and sustainable development, and social affairs and people-to-people exchanges.
At the invitation of Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Hor Nam Hong, Lao Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Thongloun Sisoulith, Myanmar Foreign Minister U Wunna Maung Lwin, Thai Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai, Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh attended the meeting, and Wang Yi and Don Pramudwinai co-hosted the meeting.
“Wrong way!” Stephen, our driver, shouted at Pablo through the rolled-up window of his 4×4. We had jumped out of the car to take a ferry across the Mekong to the toothbrush-shaped island of Phu Thanh, and apparently Stephen was unimpressed with our door-closing technique. Heedless of the swarms of motorcycles flowing around the vehicle, he engaged the handbrake and got out himself to demonstrate the proper method.
Opening the door and quickly slamming it with exaggerated force, he pointed accusingly at Pablo. “Wrong way.”
Once more he pulled the door open, smiling as he gently closed it with a barely audible click. “Right way.”
This issue brief – the second in Stimson’s “Letters from the Mekong” series – examines the current status of mitigation efforts at Laos’ Xayaburi and Don Sahong dam projects and the relevance of the existing narrative surrounding hydropower development on the river’s mainstream. Based on extensive research on the status and expected impacts of these projects, the authors of this brief have concluded that the current narrative of inevitability surrounding the future of the Mekong is increasingly at odds with what is in fact a very fluid situation. Instead of being the first two of up to nine or eleven mainstream “dominos” to fall, these commercial-opportunity projects are likely to face significantly increasing political and financial risks and uncertainties.
How dam construction companies deal with the social and environmental impacts of their projects comes down to more than just their own policies, write Johan Nordensvard and Frauke Urban.
Not only does hydropower development along the Mekong impact on food security, it also pushes land-use changes in other parts of the world. This was shown by visiting researcher Jamie Pittock in a recent Water Dialogues seminar.
The fallout from the Great Fall in financial markets, equities and currencies is ricocheting through the regional economy and beginning to exact a toll – initially among badly-run companies and poorly-managed government institutions.
Lush greenery in the lower Mekong region sprawls as far as the eye can see, an illustration of just how fertile the delta is. The endless green fields scored by the river’s nine tributaries, which the Vietnamese call “Nine Dragons”, explain why this area is one of the world’s major food baskets.
It houses the richest inland fishery and accounts for more than a fifth of the world’s rice exports, although looks can be deceptive. Encroaching sea water from the south, a proliferation of hydro dams in the north and large-scale sand mining are endangering the delta, officials warn.