What does Vietnam need: power from Laos or water from the Mekong?
VietNamNet Bridge - While economists applaud the idea of importing electricity from Laos, environmentalists say that Vietnam should not encourage Laos to build hydropower plants on the Mekong River. 
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“Vietnam should not think of buying electricity from Laos. If we do, we will encourage them to build hydropower plants on thevMekong,” said Vu Trong Hong, chair of the Vietnam Water Resources Association, and former Deputy Minister of Natural Resources and the Environment.

The Mekong is a means of subsistence for 70 million people in six countries and the source of food to 300 million in the region and world. 

For sustainable development of this river basin, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam established the Mekong River Committee (MRC).

According to Dao Trong Tu, director of the Center for the Water Resource Sustainable Development, and former deputy secretary of Vietnam National Mekong Committee, big questions have been raised about the development of Mekong’s upper course, especially hydropower plants in China and Laos on the Mekong mainstream.

While economists applaud the idea of importing electricity from Laos, environmentalists say that Vietnam should not encourage Laos to build hydropower plants on the Mekong River. 

In principle, economic development in every country in the Mekong River basin is determined by the country. 

However, countries have to observe international laws when using water of international rivers like the Mekong, including the 1997 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Non-Navigational Uses of International Watercourses (the 1997 Convention).

The development and exploitation of international river water resources must be programmed thoroughly with consideration of benefits of all relevant nations.

The hydropower development on the Mekong mainstream is expected to bring big economic benefits to Laos, but to harm ecosystems, livelihoods and the environment of countries in the lower course, including Vietnam.

International organizations have repeatedly warned about the serious consequences the hydropower dams on the upper course would have on the lower course. 

Vietnam would suffer the most from this: it would lack water to irrigate the country’s biggest rice granary, which would affect its food security.

Tu said that the import of electricity from Vietnam will be contrary to all its efforts to dissuade Laos from continuing hydropower plants. 

Hong from the Water Resources Association said Vietnam must not exchange the environment for short-term economic goals.

“Water security is an important issue,” he said, adding that Vietnam should think of buying electricity from Laos.

An electricity expert, commenting that policy makers seem to exaggerate the electricity demand in Vietnam, said Vietnam did not need to import electricity.

The total electricity output in Vietnam is 33,000-34,000 MW.


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