Laos hydropower plant threatens Vietnam’s Mekong

VietNamNet Bridge – Experts in Vietnam continue to voice their worries about the Lao government’s determination to build the Don Sahong hydropower dam on the Mekong River.

Laos hydropower plant, mekong river

“It will be a major threat to Vietnam’s Mekong River delta,” said Dr. Pham Bich San, Deputy Secretary General of the Vietnam Union of Science and Technology Associations (VUSTA), adding that the dams on the Mekong mainstream will have negative impacts on the ecological environment, especially the lower course.

San cited recent research which found that the Mekong is one of the five biggest river basins in the world which has seen its current reduced the most sharply. The average annual flow in the lower course has declined by 10 percent over the last 30 years.

The Mekong section which runs across Vientiane in Laos has been so depleted in the last 10 years that people can wade across the river in the dry season.

In Thailand, the Chao Praya River, as it’s known by locals, which has traditionally been mild, unexpectedly caused major floods which lasted many months in 2011.

In the Mekong River Delta in Vietnam, salt water has encroached on the Tan Chau area in An Giang Province. This never happened in the past.

The Mekong River has always played a very important role in Vietnamese socio-economic development and regional food security. The Mekong River delta is home to 20 million people who are responsible for 27 percent of Vietnam’s GDP, 90 percent of rice exports and 60 percent of Vietnam’s seafood exports.

“VUSTA has many times in the past voiced its concern about the negative impacts of hydropower dams on Vietnam. Nevertheless, Laos went ahead and built its Xayabury hydropower plant. Now Vietnam needs to have a stronger voice over the Lao Dong Sahong project,” San said.

Professor Dr. Ho Uy Liem, a renowned scientist, some years ago warned that if Xayabury dam was built, it would create a very dangerous precedent for another 11 dams to be set up on the Mekong main stream.

“If so, this will be the destruction of the river,” Liem said. “This will deprive the livelihood of the 60 million people living along the riverside, especially the Vietnamese in the Mekong River Delta,” he said.

And Liem’s warning seems to turn into reality.

Le Bo Linh, Deputy Chair of the National Assembly’s Science & Technology Committee, has also expressed his deep concerns about the Lao decision to build Don Sahong dam, affirming that the work will affect the river’s hydrological regime, causing depletion in the dry season and bringing salinity to Vietnam’s Mekong River delta.

According to Linh, at the international meeting of the Mekong River Commission in April in HCM City, the involved parties approved a declaration which says that countries need to consult with others in the region if they plan to execute construction works on the Mekong main stream.

The Lao government, which promised at the meeting that it would consult with other countries, still has decided to set up its hydropower dams.

Linh said the government of Vietnam needs to express its official viewpoint on Laos building dams on the Mekong River, because it seems that concerns voiced by scientists and environmentalists, institutions and individuals are not enough for the Lao government to rethink the project.

Dat Viet

Laos hydropower plant, mekong river