Regional dams threat to fish

Thirteen percent of more than 2,500 freshwater species of fish, crabs and plants profiled across the region are under threat of extinction, a report released on Wednesday says.

According to an International Union for Conservation of Nature study of freshwater biodiversity in the “Indo-Burma” region, which includes Cambodia, that figure could soar as hydro-electric dams are built.

“The development of hydropower dams throughout the Indo-Burma region is among the most crucial threats to aquatic biodiversity,” the Status and Distribution of Freshwater Biodiversity in Indo-Burma says.

“These projects are changing fundamental hydrological and water quality conditions…of many rivers, completely altering aquatic habitats with little understanding of the impacts… on fish biodiversity.”

Environmental groups are concerned that projects such as the Xayaburi dam, a 1,285-hectare hydro dam proposed for the Mekong in northern Laos, could affect the livelihoods of Cambodians who depend on the river.

William Darwall, a spokesman for the IUCN Global Species Programs, said hydro dam construction could increase the percentage of threatened fish species from 19 to 28 per cent within a decade.

“There is still time for this…report to help large-scale developments…proceed in a sustainable way with reduced impacts,” Darwall said.

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