Mekong River hydro dams to take heavy toll on Vietnam: experts

Hydropower dams on the upper Mekong River will have a serious impact on the lower sections of Vietnam’s Mekong Delta, an expert has said

Passenger boats are seen on the Tien River, a branch of the Mekong River, in southern Vietnam.

Vietnamese and foreign experts have warned that hydropower dams on the Mekong River's upper sections will severely affect the lower region, especially Vietnam’s Mekong Delta.

The warning was issued at the seminar “Mekong Hydropower: Science, Policies and Community Voices” held in the southern Vietnamese province of An Giang on Tuesday by the Center for People and Nature Reconciliation (Pan Nature), a local nonprofit dedicated to protecting and conserving diversity of life and improving human well-being in Vietnam. 

Besides six major dams that have already been built in the upper river region in China, 11 others are planned in Laos and Cambodia, according to reports delivered at the symposium.

These dams will have serious impacts on the region, especially the Mekong Delta in the downstream area, experts said.   

Vietnam will suffer an extremely heavy influence from such dams, especially for the country’s fishery and agricultural sectors, experts told the seminar.

The dams will also degenerate the wetlands' ecosystem and the biological diversity of the Mekong Delta in Vietnam will be unrecoverable, the experts added.

Poor people in the delta will suffer most from the dams, which may lead to large-scale immigration causing disorder, they said.

The operation of the dams will also cause difficulties to the implementation of the measures to cope with climate change in the Mekong Delta, experts said.

Dr. Le Anh Tuan, director of the Institute for Climate Change Study under Can Tho University, underlined that hydropower dam projects pose threats to the balance of water resources while undermining fisheries resources, alluvial soil sources and the ecological system of the Mekong Delta.

“Regarding the fisheries resources, the migration of ca trang [white fish] due to the dams’ operation is expected to reach 220,000-440,000 tons of fish, which will cause total damage of US$0.5-1 billion per year to the Mekong Delta,” Dr. Tuan said.    

Ame Trandem, Southeast Asia Program Director at the International Rivers, cited a recent study by the U.S.-based Portland University that said hydropower dams on the upper river will cause damage valued at 10 times more than the benefit they can bring to the region.

The life of 40 million people will be affected by the dams, Trandem warned.

In order to create energy, there are many more effective and suitable solutions, she added.  

The Mekong River is the world's 12th longest and the 7th longest in Asia.

It is about 4,350km long, running through six countries, including China, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam

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