Monday, October 12, 2009

Dam Will Block Migratory Fish on Southern Mekong Which Would Lead to Massive Food Shortage

While I am in the Mekong River Basin, I have decided to research hydroelectric dams on the Mekong River and the possible Don Sahong dam, which would be built on the Laos - Cambodia border near the Khone Falls area. The dam would provide electricity to the majority of southern Laos and the remainder then sold to Thailand.

The problem is that the dam could threaten food security of millions of people in Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Thailand. An August report by Dr. Ian G. Baird, an affiliate of the Polis Project on Ecological Governance at the University of Victoria, Canada, and a leading expert on fisheries in the Khone Falls area of Southern Laos, shows that the Don Sahong Dam would block the migration of many important commercial fish species that pass through the Khone Falls area throughout the year.

The paper states that “fisheries losses in the Mekong region from the Don Sahong Dam could negatively impact the nutritional status of hundreds of thousands or even millions of people dependent on these fisheries, thus decreasing the health of a large human population, especially in parts of Laos, Cambodia and Thailand where nutritional standards are already low.”

The Mekong River Commission, which is an intergovernmental body between Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnan, has accused China of blatantly disregarding the nations downstream with its Mekong dam plans, but nothing has changed and China is considering 12 new dams. Since the building of the first Chinese dam, the Irradawy dolphins and manatees have become almost instinct on the river.

MRC in Vientiane, Laos.

The Mekong River is the 10th-longest river in the world and the 7th longest in Asia. It flows from the Tibetan Plateau through China's Yunnan province, Burma, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam. China has already built three dams on the mainstream Mekong with another 12 under consideration. There are 5 under consideration in Cambodia and 3 in Laos.

In two weeks a full strategic environmental assessment will be released by Larry Haas, policy and strategy adviser for sustainable hydropwer, of the Mekong River Commission. This will cover the 11 proposed dams on the Mekong mainstream (excluding China's).

I spent all of today at the headquarters of the Mekong River Commission, reading reports in the library, speaking with environmental analysts at lunch, and speaking with Mr. Haas. Tonight I leave on a night bus to Pakse in the south, and from there get to Siphandone, where the dam will be built, which is also known as 4,000 islands, home to the Irradawy dolphins! I will update when I have more.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. That's really interesting. So, after Larry Hass' environmental assessment is released are they going to reconsider building the dam due to the effect it may have on fisheries? Or is Larry Hass' report not about the effect on the fish? It seems as though it will have a negative impact on a lot of lives. It's obviously a good clean source of energy, but is it worth it if it effects millions of peoples nutrition and therefore health? It's really awesome you are getting so involved in all this and it's also really cool that you were invited to that alternative energy seminar. Can't wait to hear about it! Keep up the wonderful blogs!