Damming puts Vietnam’s Mekong Delta at risk

VietNamNet Bridge – The Mekong Delta region of Vietnam will suffer serious damage as Laos and Cambodia have built and will build 12 hydropower dams along the Mekong River, said experts.



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Illustrative image -- Photo: www.asianews.it

Experts issued the warning at a workshop organized by the People and Nature Reconciliation (PanNature) in Long Xuyen City, An Giang Province on November 10.

According to PanNature, aside from six upstream dams that have been built in China, Laos and Cambodia are planning 10 more dams in the future, which will cause serious impact on the region, especially Vietnam’s Mekong Delta in the downstream.

Laos began work on Xayaburi dam in 2012 and will proceed with another damming project in Don Sahong at the end of this year while it is making preparations for Pak Beng, its third hydropower project in the Mekong River.

Laos’ unilateral damming decision shows that the cooperative spirit has been underestimated, PanNature said.

Dr. Le Anh Tuan, deputy head of the Institute of Climate Change Research at Can Tho University, said in a report that Vietnam, especially the Mekong Delta, would see little benefit from hydropower damming on the Mekong River.

Damming will directly hit agriculture and fish farming, the two biggest economic pillars of the region, leading Vietnam to lose its position as the largest food exporter in the world. In addition, the damming projects will destroy biodiversity and affect poor people both in cities and rural areas.

Each year, the Mekong River carries around 160,000,000 billion tons of alluvium from the upstream to the sea, ranking sixth among the 10 largest rivers worldwide in terms of alluvium. The Mekong Delta, which is home to nearly 20 million people, four million hectares of natural land and two million hectares of agricultural land producing 25 million tons of paddy and 2.8 million tons of seafood a year, depends heavily on alluvium from the river.

However, dams will cause a reduction of alluvium, making soil exhausted and thereby affecting output of rice and other crops.

Quoting a report of the International Center for Environmental Management (ICEM), Tuan said the dam system would cause a loss of 440,000 tons of aquatic resources worth US$1 billion a year.

Jake Brunner of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) said that Laos is going to build Don Sahong dam for a 260 MW power plant, about two kilometers from the boundary with Cambodia. Meanwhile, independent experts have warned that the dam would seriously affect fish migration, threatening Vietnam’s fish exports.

Ame Trandem from the International Rivers (IR) organization said China and Laos have given no prior consultation reports to the Mekong River Commission for all the dams they have built, those under construction and those to go up in the future. Meanwhile, people living in the region have little or no information about the projects.

The Xayaburi dam is 40% complete but Laos has not submitted a prior consultation report yet. The Laos government will begin building Don Sahong dam at the end of this month in the same manner and around 40 million people would be impacted by the dam, Trandem added.

A forum is scheduled to take place at An Giang University on November 11 to discuss the release of a message on hydropower damming that will be sent to the governments of the countries in the Mekong River basin.

SGT

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