RANGOON—The proposed construction of 11 hydroelectric dams on the Lower Mekong River has come under heavy criticism by activists who say the dams would destroy the ability of communities downstream, including in Burma, to catch fish and grow rice.
The environmental impact of the proposed dams on the Mekong’s diverse animal population, including giant catfish and the Irrawaddy dolphin, outweigh any possible benefits of the project as a new source of energy, said British-born journalist Tom Fawthrop, who has extensively studied the dam project and worked in Southeast Asia for more than 25 years.
“Yes, of course the rural people in Burma, Laos, Cambodia and Thailand have the right to electricity, but they also have the right to fish. You can’t eat electricity,” Fawthrop said in Rangoon following the recent screening of his film “Where Have all the Fish Gone,” about the potentially devastating consequences of the dam project to the Mekong’s ecosystem.
The Mekong, one of Southeast Asia’s major rivers, winds its way through the Burma-Laos border, as well as through Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand.