Phnom Penh Post
The future of the Mekong River – and potentially the food and economic security of Cambodia – is up for discussion this week, with Prime Minister Hun Sen and the leaders of Vietnam, Thailand and Laos expected to make a declaration on the development of the river basin on Thursday at the end of the four-day Mekong River Commission (MRC) summit in Siem Reap.
The message conveyed to those leaders on Tuesday night, after a two-day conference with experts, civil society and country representatives from across the Mekong Basin, was to heed the results of the MRC’s landmark Council Study – a massive report assessing the impacts of hydropower development – as the basis for future policymaking. The study’s predictions of the impacts on fisheries, agriculture and the economy across the basin if hydropower projects go through are dire – and for Cambodia, they are potentially catastrophic.
The Council Study, a 3,600-page report that was six years and millions of dollars in the making, was commissioned by MRC countries to assess in particular the 11 proposed dams along the lower Mekong mainstream, of which three are already under construction.
“Certainly the results show that if the business as usual trajectory plays out that the trade-offs to water and food impacts are going to be very dire,” said Brian Eyler of the think tank The Stimson Center.
“We’re looking at a zero-sum gain or a negative sum gain for the region,” he continued, adding “China’s leadership needs to pay attention to this, as does the leadership downstream”. Though China is not in the MRC, it attended the summit as a “dialogue partner” along with Myanmar.