Conservationists warn proposed dams could damage Mekong river

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Article from Associated Press

BANGKOK, Thailand: Six proposed dams on the Mekong River could
displace up to 75,000 villagers and harm hundreds of species like the
endangered giant catfish and Irrawaddy dolphin, conservationists
warned Tuesday.
Premrudee Daoroung, director of the Bangkok-based environmental group
TERRA, said 13-year-old plans to build four dams in Laos and one each
in Thailand and Cambodia have been revived as part of efforts - mostly
by China, Thailand and Vietnam - to find new energy sources for their
growing economies.
"The natural flow of the river will all be completely changed,"
Premrudee said. "Of course, it will affect all the vegetation and fish
on the river. Many species of fish will be lost because the river will
become shallower and some parts may have no water at all during the
dry season."
The proposed dams would add further pressure to the beleaguered
Mekong, which runs through China, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia
and Vietnam.
The river and its vast tributary network already face threats from
pollution, climate change and the effects of dams that were built in
China and have caused water levels to drop sharply on the upper
Conservationists urged the Mekong River Commission - which is made up
of Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos and Thailand and tasked with managing
navigation and development along the river - to take a public stance
on the dam projects at its annual meeting starting Thursday in
They also called on the commission to release any studies or surveys
on the six dams' effects on the river.
"Despite the serious ecological and economic implications of damming
the lower Mekong, the Mekong River Commission remained notably
silent," a coalition of 175 environmental and civic groups charged in
a letter sent to the commission Monday. "We find this an extraordinary
abdication of responsibility."
Conservationists fear that without some outside pressure, the dams -
mostly funded by Chinese companies - will fail to include affected
communities in their planning, to compensate relocated villagers for
possible lost land and livelihoods, and will refuse to incorporate
environmental and social safeguards into their projects.
No one from the commission could immediately be reached for comment on
the environmentalists' statements.