The Asean Post –
Originating in the Tibetan highlands and running through China, Myanmar, Thailand, Lao PDR, Cambodia, and Vietnam, the Mekong and its tributaries provide water, food and income for 60 million people. The longest river in Southeast Asia is home to the world’s largest inland fishery. It is estimated that 25 percent of the global freshwater catch is harvested from this river.
Damming of the Mekong started in China in the early 1990s. However, most of the river remained undammed due largely to the regional cooperation between the lower Mekong member states. In 2006, energy needs magnified by the financial returns of hydropower drove Lao to kick off its first dam on the river, as well as dozens more on its tributaries. Other lower Mekong countries followed suit.
Concerns have since been raised on the massive negative impacts and trade-offs of the numerous detrimental hydropower developments along the waterway. A Mekong River Council study discussed at the Mekong River Commission (MRC) Summit early last year predicted a reduction of 30 to 40 percent in fisheries, involving the loss of about one million tons of fish every year.
The study also predicted a reduction of 97 percent sediment load reaching the Mekong Delta, which will colossally reduce soil fertility in the lower Mekong basin, leading to a decrease in the region’s agricultural productivity, as well as increased poverty and food insecurity.