There are numerous propositions to construct dams along the Mekong river in an effort to provide sustainable hydroelectric power for the region. The dams would provide a renewable source of energy for the six countries that share the river–China, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam. Would damming the mighty Mekong truly be “sustainable,” however?
I believe the social and environmental costs of these proposed hydropower dams would be higher than their benefits. The Mekong falls victim to dredging, drilling, blasting, pollution, and overfishing. The ecosystem is already dealing with degradation. Why threaten its delicate balance even further?
A physical barrier across any portion of the Mekong would have significant consequences. Most evidently, the river’s flow would be choked, altering, and possibly eliminating, the region’s wet and dry season cycles. A dam would block sediment and nutrient transfer, restricting alluvial deposits. The migratory and spawning paths of fish would be disrupted. Millions of people in thousands of communities depend on the river, for income, but also for sustenance. These ecological disruptions could force people to relocate. The majority of people who live along the Mekong are rural and impoverished, and the river serves as their life blood. It seems a dam would benefit the construction companies’ rich and cost the region’s poor.
What is being overlooked is the river’s benefit to the region, just the way it is. Before approval is granted to these hydroelectric companies, the impacts on the region should be deeply considered. Local communities who know the river best should be consulted. In this case, I hope it’s not the poor who, once again, lose out.