Mekong Utility Watch

UN says dams are the biggest threat to the Mekong River

Brady Yauch

May 25, 2009

The UN is warning China that its desire to pursue hydro-electric projects may pose the biggest threat to the Mekong River– one of the most vital sources of freshwater for countries in South East Asia. The Chinese government is planning to build as many as eight dams on the upper half of the Mekong as it winds through Yunnan province.

But, according to AP, the UN experts warn that dams on the upper half of the river will cause, “changes in river flow volume and timing, water quality deterioration and loss of biodiversity.” The Mekong river flows for 307,000 miles as it makes its way through China, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam, supporting dozens of rare species of bird and fish, and providing food and jobs for the 65 million people who live in its basin.

The report warned that a number of river basins in the Mekong are under threat from pollution and over-development and from previous dams that have been built in China.

Indeed, a number of countries are planning hydro dams on the Mekong River. Laos has already started construction on 23 dams, which are expected to be completed sometime next year. Cambodia and Vietnam are also planning ambitious dam projects on the river. And China has just recently completed the Xiowan Dam – currently the world’s tallest dam at 958 feet (292 meters).

Other Media Coverage:

GoKunming’s story [PDFver here]

Xinhua’s report [PDFver here]

Further Reading:

Freshwater Under Threat: South East Asia

PI Report: Electricity of Vietnam urged to rethink hydro operations on Mekong tributary

Environmentalists worried over impact of Mekong damming

Categories: Mekong Utility Watch

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