People who once relied on the Mekong for their livelihood can no longer depend on it and are looking elsewhere to make a living.
China plans to build the world’s biggest dam in its bid to become carbon-neutral by 2060. But its hydropower ambitions are already having an adverse effect on the rivers and livelihoods of downstream communities, the programme Insight finds out.
The flooding of land for hydroelectric dams has affected more than one-fifth of the world’s tigers and one in two hundred jaguars.
The Mekong River Commission (MRC) bears an enormous weight on its shoulders, overseeing both the development and the protection of a channel on whom millions of people depend. But the commission has proved powerless in the latter mission, failing to protect or involve communities in hydropower projects that threaten their livelihoods.
“Peace and the survival of life on earth as we know it are threatened by human activities which lack a commitment to humanitarian values. Destruction of nature and nature resources results from ignorance, greed and lack of respect for the earth’s living things…It is not difficult to forgive destruction in the past, which resulted from ignorance. Today, however, we have access to more information, and it is essential that we re-examine ethically what we have inherited, what we are responsible for, and what we will pass on to coming generations,” said the Dalai Lama.
On January 4, 2017, the Forum for Development Studies published a new article by Kanokwan Manorom, Ian Baird and Bruce Shoemaker titled, “The World Bank, Hydropower-based Poverty Alleviation and Indigenous Peoples: On-the-Ground Realities in the Xe Bang Fai River Basin of Laos.” This article provides more detail on the project’s impacts following earlier articles on the situation along the Xe Bang Fai River published in 2015 by the same researcher team.
Recently, the Central Highlands has been planned as the location for the largest hydroelectric center in the whole country. Along the major river systems of five regional provinces there are 11 large-scale hydropower plantsin operation, as well as 360 small and medium hydropower plants that have been planned and built. However, due to the impacts on the environment, local economy and society, some projects were suspended.
Hydropower development is always a trade-off between economic benefits and environmental issues. Human-beings’ intrusive intervention has been turning many rivers into dead flows. The fate of the 3S basin – the name of three rivers Sesan, Sekong and Srepok which run through the territories of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia before joining the Great Mekong – are drastically threatened by hydropower dams.
On a visit to the Asian Institute of Technology AIT on 10-15-2012 to inspect the mockup of the Xayaburi Hydropower Dam, Mr. Viraphonh Viravong, Deputy Minister of Energy and Mines of Laos, the “brain” behind all development projects for hydropower dams in Laos asserted: “There is no question of Lao PDR not developing its hydropower potential. The only question is how to do it sustainably.”
Residents of Chipwe and Hsawlaw townships in Kachin State have joined growing calls for the government to scrap seven hydropower projects along the Ayeyarwady River, including the controversial Myitsone megadam in neighbouring Myitkyina township.