The fate of 70 million people rests on what happens to the Mekong river. With world leaders meeting in Paris for crucial UN climate talks, John Vidal journeys down south-east Asia’s vast waterway – a place that encapsulates some of the dilemmas they must solve. He meets people struggling to deal with the impacts of climate change as well as the ecological havoc created by giant dams, deforestation, coastal erosion and fast-growing cities
John Vidal’s first stop along the river is the tiny country of Laos. Fifty years ago, Laos began to build a series of giant dams. It was the first chance the country had to generate the electricity and money needed to emerge from deep poverty. But is this demand for clean energy creating ecological and human havoc?
Read more at Mekong: a river rising / The Guardian
China should join an intergovernmental commission supervising development of the Mekong River to more effectively address environmental and other problems faced by downstream Southeast Asian nations, a senior U.S. government official says.
Aaron Salzberg, special coordinator for water issues at the U.S. State Department, also underlined the importance of political will in ensuring that the Mekong River Commission (MRC) functions as an effective forum in coordinating shared use of the region’s main waterway.
“In the long run, I think it would be good for China to become a full active member in the MRC … sharing data so that the downstream countries actually understand what’s going to happen and when it’s going to happen and they can prepare accordingly for those types of things,” Salzberg told RFA.
“China can play an active role in managing their infrastructure for downstream benefits,” he said.
Five dams commissioned in China on the Mekong river’s upper portion have caused rapid changes in water levels and other adverse effects downstream, especially in the four countries of the Lower Mekong Basin—Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, and Laos—where tens of millions of people depend on the river for food, water, and transportation, environmentalists say.
China has refused to join the MRC—which comprises the four lower Mekong nations and manages development along the Mekong—although the river’s source is located within the Asian giant’s borders, saying it prefers to negotiate on a bilateral basis to resolve any problems on the issue.
via China Should Join Mekong Commission: US Official.
The project is a state-of-the-art run-of-river plant, with no large reservoir. The installed capacity of 1,285 MW is generated by 8 Kaplan turbines. The design includes multiple fish passages, fish-friendly turbines, low level outlet gates for sediment flushing and navigation locks for shipping to minimise possible adverse environmental and social effects of the plant. The energy production of the plant is sufficient to provide clean electricity to nearly 1 million people in Lao PDR and 3 million people in Thailand.
via Pöyry supervises the construction of the Xayaburi hydropower project as Government of Lao Engineer | Reuters.
Laos held a ceremony on Wednesday for a $3.5bn (£2.2bn) hydropower dam on the Mekong River that is opposed by environmentalists and neighbouring countries because of the possible impact on livelihoods, fisheries and agriculture.
“We had the opportunity to listen to the views and opinions of different countries along the river. We have come to an agreement and chose today to be the first day to begin the project,” the deputy prime minister, Somsavat Lengsavad, said at the site.
The developing south-east Asian country has ambitions to become the “battery of south-east Asia” through power exports from dams across the 3,044 mile Mekong.
via Laos breaks ground in ceremony for contentious Mekong dam | Environment | guardian.co.uk.
International concerns about Lao’s plans to massively dam the Mekong River and its tributaries have again been brushed aside by the authorities in Vientiane who have announced new contracts worth about $1.0 billion to build three dams.
The dams will feed a hydropower plant on two tributaries of the Se Kong River, just 100 kilometers from Laos’ southern border with Cambodia. The Se Kong flows into the Mekong from the Bolaven Plateau which then feeds into the Lower Mekong Delta.
However, no environmental impact assessments are known to have been done and the incident has further stoked tensions between Laos and conservation groups and regional countries already angered with Vientiane and its attitude towards the construction of the U.S. $3.8 billion Xayaburi Dam to be built 150 kilometers downstream from the old royal capital city of Luang Prabang,
The Xe-Namnoy will be constructed by South Korean firm SK Engineering & Construction and will be aimed at producing 400 megawatts of electricity from water flowing from a height of 630 meters.
The New “Battery of Asia?” – The Diplomat.