The scale of this dam is huge!
There is a lot of controversy surrounding this dam. More than 2000 villagers have been forced off their land and have received almost nothing in compensation. But a bigger concern is the effect this dam will have on the Mekong ecosystem.
According to a World Wildlife Fund (WWF) report, the Xayaburi dam would drive the already critically endangered Mekong Giant Catfish (Pangasianodon gigas) to extinction. Because the Mekong is a unique and particularly complex ecosystem that hosts the most productive inland fisheries in the world, the stakes are high for the construction of such a dam. According to a study conducted by WWF and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, and coordinated by the WorldFish Center, there are 229 fish species whose spawning and migratory patterns would be affected by a mainstream dam. This change in fish biodiversity and abundance would greatly affect the tens of millions of people in the Greater Mekong Subregion who depend on the river for their food and livelihood. According to Phnom-Penh based WorldFish Center, this damage to fisheries “cannot be mitigated by fish passes and reservoirs”.
A Strategic Environmental Assessment commissioned by the Mekong River Commission (MRC) recommends a 10-year deferral of all Mekong mainstream dams in Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam, and calls for further studies. According to a MRC spokeswoman construction of the Xayaburi dam “will result in irreversible environmental impacts”. The MRC warns that if Xayaburi and subsequent schemes went ahead, it would “fundamentally undermine the abundance, productivity and diversity of the Mekong fish resources”.
Milton Osborne, Visiting Fellow at the Lowy Institute for International Policy who has written widely on the Mekong, warns: “The future scenario is of the Mekong ceasing to be a bounteous source of fish and guarantor of agricultural richness, with the great river below China becoming little more than a series of unproductive lakes.”
None of the mitigation measures for fish and sediment passage included in the dam’s current design have been tested at this scale or in this environment. “Nowhere in the tropics has a successful fish passage been built for a dam the size of Xayaburi,” said Dr. Eric Baran of the World Fish Centre in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. “It is unreasonable to assume that the proposed fish passage options will be efficient when they are neither based on successful experience in a similar context nor on a study of the local species.”
Fish are a staple of the diet in Laos and Cambodia, with around 80 per cent of the Cambodian population’s annual protein intake coming from fish caught in the Mekong River system, with no alternative source to replace them. Dams would also restrict the flow of water over agricultural areas linked to the river.
I guess this is what “progress” looks like…
We had to hold position for a while as they were laying a cable across the river with this rig-
I feel fortunate to have been able to cruise on the Mekong before the completion of this dam. Once it’s complete it’s going to have a huge impact on the river and the Laotian way of life…