Mekong Hydropower Projects Will Accumulate 16 Percent Of River’s Water

Courtesy of OOSKA News, an article on the potential impact that hydropower projects planned within the Mekong River basin could have upon flows:

If the hydropower projects planned within the Mekong River basin are completed, they will accumulate as much as 16 percent of the river’s water volume, or 475 billion cubic meters a year, according to Dr. Chu Thai Hoanh of the International Water Management Institute (IWMI).

One hundred of the 300 hydropower projects planned over the entire river basin are currently in operation. There are currently 12 hydropower projects either in operation or planned for the main stem of the Lower Mekong River alone. This will result in 55 percent of the river’s length being dammed for reservoirs, the IWMI said.

Environmentalists and scientists have voiced objection to these dams because of the adverse affects expected in the Mekong Delta, where agriculture and fishing provide the main food supplies and economic opportunities in the region.

Vietnam’s agricultural and fishing industries are expected to take the biggest hit. Its seafood industry is expected to be hit with $1 billion USD in losses, with a 65 percent reduction in fish in the river. Approximately 14 million Vietnamese farmers could be adversely affected.

Le Anh Tuan, from the Research Institute for Climate Change under Can Tho University, was quoted by Vietnam Bridge as saying that if the hydropower projects progress as planned, Vietnam will no longer be able to export agricultural goods.

This could result in massive emigration and unpredictable socio-economic consequences, he added.

The nation is also concerned about losing millions of tons of silt deposits, causing erosion and landslides to increase. The dams are expected to reduce the amount of silt the river carries from 26 million tons a year to just 7 million tons.

Vietnam’s upstream neighbor, Laos, is moving ahead with plans to become the region’s “battery,” selling its hydro-generated power to its neighbors. It currently has 70 dams, with many more being designed or under construction.

Earlier this month, Laotian authorities signed an updated eight-year deal with Russian investor Regional Oil for construction of three hydropower projects on Mekong River tributaries.

The three projects — Sekong 4, Sekong 5 and the Nam Kong 1 — will be located in the southern provinces of Sekong and Attapeu and are to be completed by 2014. Over 7,000 people will have to be relocated by the government in order to construct the dams.

The two Sekong dams will be constructed on the Sekong River, a major tributary of the Mekong, while the Nam Kong 1 will be built on a tributary of the Sekong. Environmentalists have expressed concerns that the dams will affect both the Sekong and Mekong water flows throughout Southeast Asia.

Global NGO International Rivers also predicts that the dams will negatively affect fisheries and by default local livelihoods.

Laos is also currently constructing the controversial Xayaburi Dam, which will be the first across the main stem of the Lower Mekong. During the 19th Mekong River Commission Council meeting in Laos last month, Vietnam, Cambodia and other participants challenged the $3.5 billion USD dam.

Laos had previously agreed to put the project on hold until all environmental impact assessments could be properly completed. It began construction on November 7, after it approved new design plans it said addressed the other Mekong countries concerns.

However, during the meeting last month, the Cambodian delegation said Laos had misinterpreted the Mekong Agreement and that prior consultation had not been properly completed, while Vietnam called for construction to be halted again until the dam study agreed upon last year was completed.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, February 26th, 2013 at 8:19 am and is filed under Cambodia, Laos, Mekong River, Vietnam.  You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.  Both comments and pings are currently closed. 

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