Plans to harness hydropower potential in the Lower Mekong Basin for the first time has led to a search for a good dam.
This is the issue that some 200 scientists, development experts, policy makers, and representatives from the hydropower sector wanted to resolve when they participated in last month’s Mekong Forum on Water, Food and Energy held in Hanoi, Vietnam and organized by the CGIAR Challenge Program on Water and Food (CPWF).
The consensus of the two day (November 13-14) forum is that the Mekong River is still poorly understood and more research is needed to know the impact of building dams in the Lower Mekong.
A good dam – according Shi Guoqing, director of the National Research Center for Resettlement in Hohai University in Nanjing, China – has several components.
In an interview with Asian Scientist Magazine, Shi said a “good dam” has to be technically safe (a product of high quality construction) and financially sustainable, offering economic benefits not only to the dam operator but to the society as a while.
Shi added that a good dam must be able to mitigate its possible impact on the environment, and be considerate of local communities that will be affected by dam construction by providing them with alternative homes and livelihoods.
Scientists and experts who participated in the forum noted that in the case of the Lower Mekong, more studies are needed to produce a good dam. This dam will provide sustainable hydropower – a resource that will power the growing economies of Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam, but should not be built at the expense of food security, natural environment, and livelihoods.
The Mekong River is the longest river in Southeast Asia, winding 4,909 km through three provinces of southern China, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam before emptying into the South China Sea. There are now dams that exist in China along the Upper Mekong Basin, but it is only now that dams are also being constructed in Lower Mekong which passes through four riparian countries.