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Mar 27, 2012

Mekong River Delta Fisheries, Food Security, Biodiversity Threatened By Planned Hydropower Dams

In March 2012, the National Proceedings of the Academy of Sciences (NPAS) published the first strategic analysis on the impact of the projected 78 hydropower dams slated to be built along the Mekong River and its tributaries.  Detailed analysis was made of 27 of these dams planned for construction between 2015 and 2030.  Authors concluded that they would have a detrimental impact on food security, biodiversity, and fisheries.

The Mekong River and its delta region impact an estimated 65 million people in six countries including China, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam.  The river and its tributaries have been classified as "the world's biggest inland fishery." Maintaining adequate water levels is critical to fish migrations. Annual fish production is estimated at more than 1.5 million tons.
Local fisherman on the Mekong River
Photo: USGS

The article concludes that plans by various the different countries along the Mekong River to build new hydropower dams potentially threatens the livelihoods of 70 percent of the river basin's residents.  This is due to the fact that so many of these residents are either small farmers or fishermen.

Some of the most controversial dams included:
  • planned tributary dams to be built in Laos - these would impact fish biodiversity and availability in Cambodia and Vietnam;
  • the Lower Se San 2, planned for construction on a Mekong tributary in Cambodia

The Mekong River Commission, composed of representatives from Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, and Laos is involved in reviewing the construction of dams in the region.  This includes the ongoing study of the mainstream dam at Xayaburi.  This PNSA article concludes that tributary dams should be included in the Mekong River Commission's review process.

Ziv, Guy, Eric Baran, So Nam, Ignacio Rodriguez-Iturbe, Simon A. Levin. "Trading-Off Fish Biodiversity, Food Security, and Hydropower in the Mekong River Basin," Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences," 5 March 2012.

About Margaret

CEO and Curator (The Food Museum) | Managing Director and Chief Editor (GR2 Global LLC) | Educator (UCLA PhD) | Researching and writing on global food issues, nutrition and health, sustainability, history (preservation), conservation (natural resources), and design.
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