SPOIL 3, The Mekong River.


…………………………… http://www.meltdownintibet.com/index.htm – brilliant site for info on Chinese/Mekong dam projects and Tibet.

As development drives China and Asia, it is their economies, and the search for energy to power that development that is keeping the world afloat. Canada and Australia, both energy “rich” countries have been the subject of the previous ‘Spoil’ articles, and both their destructive environmental “Spoil” programmes, can be directly attributed to the economic benefits of supplying the 2nd, (but soon to be 1st) biggest global economy. China.

The World Bank sponsored this film clip by the U.S. Geological Service, (ho hum), but it does point out some vital issues centred around not only the 12 dams proposed for the Mekong, but the 89 further hydroelectric plants planned for the Mekong’s tributory rivers which are approved by each country unilaterally.

China is not only causing havoc in remote parts of the world, it is also destroying much of it’s own back yard, and the Asian Region’s natural Heritage. It has already killed the Yangtse River through hydroelectric damn projects, and now despite 6 other nations being ‘downstream’ below the source of the Mekong in Tibet, China has 8 dams built, under construction or planned on the Mekong before it flows into Laos/Myanmar. It  has thirteen projects planned on the Salween (known in China as “Nu”) River above its entry into Myanmar, including several adjacent to or within the ecologically sensitive heritage site in Yunnan Province. These waterways, along with the Yangtze River (one of China’s domestic targets for intensive development), constitute the Three Parallel Rivers UNESCO World Heritage Site in southern China. http://atlanticsentinel.com/2012/03/chinese-dam-building-tests-southeast-asian-resilience/

It is also reported that China has been given a major planning role on Thailands Mekong dam projects, Natural Resources and Environment Minister Preecha Rengsomboonsuk said China had modern water-resource management laws and an efficient water system.

“Its water policy is comprehensive. All relevant agencies are well integrated too,” Preecha said.

Thai Water Resources Department director-general Jatuporn Buruspat said Thai officials would discuss how best to manage the Chao Phraya River with Jiao’s team. He said the Chinese officials would cruise along the Mekong River from Chiang Rai’s Chiang Saen district today to check the conditions of this international river. Jiao insisted that China’s dams did not have any adverse impact on the Mekong.

“When drought conditions got very serious in 2010, China released water for [use in] Thailand,” he said.

According to Thailand’s Water Crisis Prevention Centre, 48 provinces have been declared drought-hit this year. http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2012/04/27/china-help-draw-plan-chao-phraya-basin.html

Downstream riparian nations include Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam. All of these countries will be affected by China’s dam building and hydropower operations in upstream reaches of the aforementioned rivers.



12 months ago when I crossed the Mekong River en route to Vien Tien a reprieve was in the air over the 12 massive damn projects proposed for the river. In December 2011 a moratorium was called by the Mekong River Commision (MRC) to allow a 10 year period of environmental research.

The search for reason has once again become a victim as news leaks out that a Thai construction company began work on March 15th on the  Xayaburi damn on the Mekong in Laos. The Peoples Republic of Laos has unilaterally made the decision despite the MRC moratorium and a “damning” report issued in March siting the damage to the worlds largest freshwater fishery from which 60 MILLION PEOPLE gain their livelyhood and from where 80% of the protein needs of those people come. Financing and construction are from Thai companies and banks, but the example followed, by one of the poorest, and least developed countries in Asia is the Chinese way, displacing millions of people in its bid to provide energy.  A demonstration was held in Bangkok recently  http://www.bangkokpost.com/news/local/290301/mekong-plans-anger-riverside-communities
The 4,900 kilometer river which forms the borders between Laos/Myanmar and Laos/Thailand and flows on through Cambodia and and Viet Nam, is recognised at Angkor Wat as the provider of food  3,000 years ago.
It is the lifeblood of the millions of people of the region and has already been affected by China’s dam construction on the upper reaches of the Mekong with noticable falls in water levels on the lower reaches. Specifically, the dam will not only involve the resettlement of about 2,100 people; the means of subsistence, income and food security of 202,000 people living around Xayaburi dam will be affected due to the reduction of farmland and decimation of fisheries.As the downstream country, the impact on Cambodia will be even greater.  When the dam is constructed on the main stream of Mekong river, the food source of 80% of the population will be affected. The Tonle Sap lake area will face most serious problems due to the impact on its wild fish resources, which currently constitute the primary source of food and livelihoods for 1.6 million people and approximately 10% of current national GDP. The reduction of alluvium caused by the stagnancy of water in the dam’s reservoir will also negatively affect Cambodia food security.Thailand will likewise experience serious environmental impact on fisheries, alluvium and aquatic products, as well as social issues such as the destruction of subsistence-based livelihoods for people living along Mekong River and increased migration to urban areas, both internal and transboundary.Located in the lowest part of Mekong basin, Vietnam will suffer the most from the negative impacts of dam on main stream of Mekong river. The Xayaburi dam and other proposed main stream dams on the Lower Mekong would add significantly to the projected impact of China’s massive dams in Yunnan on the Mekong Delta of Vietnam, where 18 million people are living as well as to regional and even international food security.  Vietnam is the world’s second largest rice exporter and the Mekong Delta-already one of the areas most vulnerable to sea level rise–produces nearly half of its rice crop. http://www.stimson.org/summaries/a-cambodian-on-mekong-river-water-security/

………………………….Full text on pictures at http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/42652178/
Oxfam made this film to raise awareness.
There are 60 million peoples voices to be heard on this matter that are discounted on the assumption that this is progress – buying into the “prosperity” bubble as suickly as possible. There is no doubt that the mainly young populations of Asia want progress and energy needs are projected to increase 15% per yer for the next 10 years. Viet Nam has already accepted encrochments by dam flooding in nearly 80,000 hectares of lush lowland forest and expansive wetlands, rare animals like the duoc langur and the pigmy slow loris make a home, alongside 100 other endangered mammals.
But much of that could change if the government approves plans to build two hydropower dams on the Dong Nai River, which runs through the park. http://www.voanews.com/english/news/asia/Vietnam-Government-Approves-Plans-Building-Dam-Through-Wildlife-Sanctuary-132909558.html
For a lengthy but in depth discussion on the hazards and geopolitical movements of the Mekong development Stimpsons talk given by Dr Richard P Cronin in 2009, is still very relevant. No doubt slowed by the GFC, the need for electricity generation has picked up and now trade off’s are happening of which no-one can know the consequences.
Key information sites about Mekong River development include ;
http://www.savethemekong.org/                                        https://www.oxfam.org.au/explore/infrastructure-people-and-environment/save-the-mekong/mekong-mainstream-dams/                                                  http://mouthtosource.org/rivers/mekong/                                                     http://peakwater.org/tag/mekong-river/                                                              http://www.internationalrivers.org/