Eleven Dams a Grave Threat to the Lower Mekong River Basin
BANGKOK – Experts have warned that the impact of 11 dams could halve fish stocks in Vietnam’s Lower Mekong Basin, raising concerns over food security, reported Straits Times.
Addressing the Greater Mekong Forum On Water, Food And Energy in Phnom Penh, experts reportedly warned that the basin could soon face depleting fish stocks, further erosion of the coastline and rising salinity that will make rice fields un-cultivable.
A government- funded study by the Vietnam National Mekong Committee estimates the value of fish from the Lower Mekong Basin at $7 billion a year, wrote the newspaper.
More than half of that is in Vietnam and Cambodia. The average annual per capita consumption of fish was calculated at 46kg, it said.
But with the 11 dams, fish availability is likely to be halved in the coming years, raising uncertainty over food security, experts presenting the study’s findings told attendees at the forum.
In recent years, discussions under the umbrella of the Mekong River Commission (MRC) have been heated. In 2011, Cambodia and Vietnam asked for a 10-year moratorium on dam-building by Laos. But beyond a mechanism called “prior consultation”, the MRC is essentially toothless. Laos continued building the 1,285MW Xayabury dam, which is now about 60 per cent complete, and just weeks ago approved another controversial dam at Don Sahong.
Laos looks to energy exports to its neighbours, mainly Thailand, to boost its economy. The power and mining sector contributes to 17 per cent of Laos’ GDP and nearly 70 per cent of overall exports.
“In Thailand, they are more than willing to buy cheaper hydro-power from Laos to replace gas-fired power projects… so I don’t notice any slowdown in power projects,” Laos’ vice-minister for energy Viraphonh Viravong told Reuters on the sidelines of the Singapore International Energy Week last week .
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