Mekong Utility Watch

NGOs campaign to defer dams construction in Lower Mekong Basin

(September 8, 2010) Probe International is named as one of the groups calling on the Mekong River Commission to halt construction of dams on the Mekong River.

Campaigners on Tuesday expressed concern against the members from the Lower Mekong Basin to continue building dams to meet energy demands.

In an interview with reporter in Bangkok on Tuesday, Carl Middleton from International Rivers said that concerned activists have been calling the Mekong River Commission (MRC) to defer the construction of 12 dams.

He gave the remark as several civil and environmental groups, including International Rivers, Probe International and World Wildlife Fund gathered together in Bangkok and called on the MRC to live up to its mandate to protect the Mekong River.

International Rivers, a U.S.-based NGO, seeks to protect rivers and defend the rights of communities that depend on them, Carl said.

Carl said the MRC, which comprises Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam, also seemed to be slow or even fail to carry out its duty by turning a blind eye to the decision to construct dams in the Lower Mekong Basin.

The Mekong River originates in the Tibetan plateau and flows 4, 800 kilometers (2,980 miles) through Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia before entering into the sea from Vietnam.

“Any dam built on downstream sections would cause dramatic changes to the river. By blocking vital fish migration routes and sediment flows, the dams will significantly alter the river’s rich biodiversity,” said Carl, “this will result in fishery losses, impacting the livelihoods and food security of millions.”

Experts have repeatedly warned that any Lower Mekong mainstream dam will carry important risks to food security, given its impact on fisheries and agriculture.

It is estimated that the Lower Mekong produces 2.5 to 3 million tons of fish annually. An important part of this production – between 600,000 to 1.4 million tons would be at risk if Lower Mekong mainstream dams were constructed, they said.

“All impacts are incremental,” said Marc Goichot, Sustainable Infrastructure Senior Advisor to the World Wildlife Fund’s Greater Mekong Program.

Xinhua, People’s Daily, September 8, 2010

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