Laos broke ground on a new Mekong River dam that’s causing concern bordering on fury in Cambodia and Vietnam. India is enraged about a new Chinese dam going up on the Brahmaputra River. And Ethiopia’s new dam on the Nile is angering Sudan, while Egypt has threatened war.
The rivers have provided sustenance for millions of people for millennia, and dams threaten that. Because of this, in some places multinational commissions were set up to arbitrate such disputes.
But it’s not working.
As climate change advances and growing populations demand more water and power, many upstream nations are ignoring their responsibilities to their downstream neighbors — and the guidelines of commissions they helped establish.
Perhaps the most egregious example is Laos, which broke ground on a new hydroelectric dam on the Mekong last year, ignoring complaints downstream. Just south in Cambodia, the Mekong provides the livelihood for much of the population because of an unusual natural phenomenon.