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Mekong dams could devastate fish populations

Fish are the primary source of protein for 60 million people in the region (© Zeb Hogan/WWF-Canon)
Fish are the primary source of protein for 60 million people in the region
© Zeb Hogan/WWF-Canon

Hydropower dams planned for the lower mainstem of the Mekong River could rob millions of people of their primary protein source, a new study by WWF and the Australian National University has revealed. There are 11 planned dam projects on the mainstem and 77 planned in the basin by 2030. If all 11 mainstem dams were built, the study estimated that the fish supply would be cut by 16 per cent, with financial loss of US$476 million a year. If all 88 projects were built, the fish supply could drop by 38 per cent.

The authors state that the impact of the dams would extend beyond the river, as people are forced to shift towards agriculture. The study calculated that, on top of 1,350km2 of land lost to reservoirs, lower Mekong countries could need 4,800-24,000km2 of new pasture to replace fish protein with livestock. Water requirements for agriculture could also rise: if all 88 dams were constructed, the water footprint in Cambodia would increase by 42-150 per cent and 18-56 per cent in Laos. "Policymakers in the region need to ask themselves where they are going to find this additional land and water," says study co-author, Stuart Orr, freshwater manager at WWF International. "The Mekong demonstrates the links between water, food and energy. If governments put the emphasis on energy, there are very real consequences for food and water - and therefore people."

"The Mekong countries are striving for economic growth, and they see hydropower as a driver of that growth," Orr adds. "But they must first fully understand and take into account the true economic and social value of a free-flowing Mekong."

Date published: August 2012


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key policy makers in the rigion must decide after consultin... (posted by: Dr yakubu ladan)


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