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Hydropower threatens Mekong ecosystem

Scientists have once again warned against the 12 hydropower projects along the Mekong River that will cause non-recoverable damages to the river’s ecosystem as well as threaten food security of residents in the riparian countries.

Vietnam Rivers Network (VRN) at a conference on the impacts of hydroelectricity on the ecosystem and fish locomotion of the Mekong River held in HCMC on Monday highlighted the huge risk of losses for agriculture and fishery in the Mekong Delta if 12 hydropower dams are developed. The conference was jointly organized by VRN and World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

VRN said the population of white fish will shrink by some 240,000-480,000 tons each year, leading to the decline of other species.

Speaking to the Daily at the conference, Marc Goichot, advisor of WWF Greater Mekong Program, said if the Mekong countries insist on constructing hydropower dams on the river, some 1,000 species of fish will vanish, causing food shortage for millions of residents in the Mekong River basin.

Moreover, developing hydropower projects on the Mekong River mainstream will lead to alluvial depletion, land erosion and severely affect agricultural production.

The 12 hydroelectricity projects under study are Pak Peng, Luang Prabang, Xayaburi, Pak Lay, Sanakham, Pak Chom, Ban Koum, Latsua, Dong Sahong, Thakho, Stung Treng and Sambor, with the combined design capacity if 14,100 megawatts. Among those, two projects will be developed by Vietnamese investors, namely Stung Treng by Song Da Corporation and Luang Prabang by PetroVietnam Power Corporation.

According to the analysis of scientists, the 12 hydropower dams will satisfy 6 to 8 per cent of the demand for power in the Mekong River downstream area until 2025. The annual revenue of these dams will be US$3.3-3.7 billion, in which Laos will receive 70 per cent of the profits from these projects, Cambodia and Thailand each receive 11-12 per cent, while Vietnam will only gain 5 per cent.

Scientists warned that the hydropower dams will block the way for fish migration, pull down 75 per cent of the alluvial amount flowing to the delta and cause land subsidence due to alluvial shortage.

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