(February 8, 2011) Philip Hirsh at China Dialogue writes about the downstream effects of Chinese dam projects. Below is an excerpt, and a link to the full article at China Dialogue.
Much has been written on the downstream impact of China’s dams on the Mekong River, which flows through or along the borders of Burma, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand after exiting China (where it is known as the Lancang). The discussion largely focuses on the hydrological impact of impounding water in the eight dams along the mainstream upper Mekong River in Yunnan Province. The Mekong Cascade, as it is termed, has caused considerable controversy in downstream countries, most notably during the2008 floods and the 2010 drought, which many blamed on China’s actions.
Clearly, the cascade has major implications for downstream hydrology, with the potential to exacerbate or ease both floods and droughts and impact on fisheries and other sources of income. (chinadialogue has published recent articles on the implications of altered river hydrology and China’s need for better public relations around its schemes). But China’s dams also have indirect ramifications, which receive less attention. Most notable of these is a revival of dam aspirations among downstream governments.