Friday, December 10, 2010

Hydropower dams threaten livelihoods of Cambodia's poor

As plans to build hydropower dams on the Mekong River gather pace, there are warnings that their construction could damage fish stocks, on which millions of Cambodia’s most vulnerable people rely for protein.

On Thursday, Laos officially inaugurated its latest hydropower dam on a tributary of the Mekong, one of the world’s longest rivers.

The Mekong rises in the Tibetan Plateau and runs almost 5,000 kilometres through six countries – including Laos and Cambodia – before it meets the sea in Vietnam.

Need for more energy

Countries like Laos and Cambodia need electricity for their own purposes and to export to their energy-hungry neighbors. The Mekong and its tributaries offer a logical solution – why not dam the river, and push the water through turbines to generate power?

It is a question that has grown more urgent in recent years. In another five years, there will be 47 dams on the tributaries of the Mekong. Around a dozen more are planned for the mainstream.

But campaigners say blocking the Mekong will severely damage fish migration, and cripple fish catches. That is important because millions in the region rely on this free resource for nutrition and food security. Freshwater fish provide up to 80 percent of the protein eaten by Cambodians, and at least one-third of fish in this river are migratory species.

To read more:,,6312093,00.html

Source photo: AP /,,6312093,00.html

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