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Friday 18 Aug 2017 | 15:54 | SYDNEY
Friday 18 Aug 2017 | 15:54 | SYDNEY

Divide On Mekong\'s future sharpens

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6 December 2010 17:12

Since my last post detailing the strong arguments against building dams on the Mekong's mainstream below China, further grist has been added to the anti-dam mill through the release by the Mekong River Commission (MRC) of two reports by Panels of Experts on basin development plans previously submitted to the MRC.

Among the many important points raised in these reports, two stand out: first is the view that plans to build dams on the mainstream of the river should be postponed to await further investigation. Second, the reports say there is a need to engage with China in relation to the dams it is building on its section of the river in Yunnan province because of the effects the Chinese dams will have on the lower reaches of the Mekong.

The reports will be heartening for those who are opposed to the proposed dams, but they are essentially at odds with those who look to the possible development of hydro power on the mainstream of the Mekong below China, as is apparent in a further report released by the MRC, the latest draft Basin Development Strategy for the Lower Mekong Basin. Tellingly, this draft lists among the studies that should be carried out in relation to basin development a series of issues that assume dam-building could go ahead. These include:

  • Mitigation of the impacts of converting much of the mainstream to a series of slow moving waters between proposed mainstream dams.
  • Assessment of mainstream and tributary hydropower potential and alternative power options, including innovative hydropower schemes that do not affect connectivity in the lower basin.
  • Detailed modelling of flood-related impacts upstream of Kratie to understand the impacts of flow changes on different river reaches, and how mainstream dams will affect these.

So, the battle lines between those opposed and those in favour of dams are becoming ever more clearly drawn. Missing is any indication of how the various reports being issued by the MRC are being received by the two government most involved in the proposed plans for dams on the mainstream, Cambodia and Laos. Until there are official indications of their positions, the best that can be said is that the issues are now clear.

Photo by Flickr user Un rosarino en Vietnam.

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