Cambodia’s fisheries at risk due to hydropower development on Mekong, MRC warns

The Phnom Penh Post

Hydropower development will likely deal a serious economic blow to Cambodia, with dire outlooks for its fisheries and rice outputs predicted even under best-case scenarios, according to key findings from the Mekong River Commission (MRC).

Researchers and policymakers representing the MRC’s member states convened in Vientiane, Laos, late last week to discuss findings due to be published in January as part of a massive five-year study on the sustainable management of the Mekong River system, including impacts from hydropower development. Commonly known as the Council Study, the report was commissioned by Prime Minister Hun Sen as well as the leaders of Laos, Vietnam and Thailand in 2011.

In emailed comments, the MRC said that changes in the Mekong’s flow due to dam construction will introduce “negative effects on riparian ecosystems, sustainability and food security associated with fish production” for Cambodia.

Scenarios modelling full hydropower development predict a reduction in lake and floodplain fisheries production of up to 70 percent across the Mekong basin. What’s more, projected annual GDP losses for the Kingdom are on the scale of $3 billion to $5 billion under the Council Study’s development scenarios for 2020 and 2040.

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