Letters from the Mekong: A Call for Strategic Basin-Wide Energy Planning in Laos

This issue brief—the third in Stimson’s “Letters from the Mekong” series — continues to challenge the prevailing narrative that the current rapid pace of dam construction on the Mekong River in mainland Southeast Asia will continue until the entire river is turned into a series of reservoirs. Certainly, the construction of even a few large dams will severely impact food security in the world’s most productive freshwater fishery and sharply reduce the delivery of nutrient-rich sediment needed to sustain agriculture, especially in Cambodia and Vietnam’s Mekong Delta. However, our team’s extensive research over a number of years, including site visits and meetings with regional policymakers, provides compelling evidence that not all of the planned dams will be built due to rising political and financial risks, including questions about the validity of current supply and demand projections in the greater Mekong region. As a consequence, we have concluded that it is not yet too late for the adoption of a new approach that optimizes the inescapable “nexus” tradeoffs among energy, export revenues, food security, and fresh water and protects the core ecology of the river system for the benefit of future generations.

In particular, through a continued examination of rising risks and local and regional responses to those risks, we believe that Laos and Cambodia will fall far short of current plans for more than 100 dams on the Mekong mainstream and tributaries. This reality will have particular implications for Laos, which seeks to become the “Battery of Southeast Asia” by setting the export of hydropower to regional markets as its top economic development priority.

In the case of Laos in particular, the reluctant recognition that its dream of damming the Mekong are in jeopardy may cause a reconsideration of its development policy options. Fewer Lao dams will mean that national revenue targets will not be met. Already the government has begun to make overtures for US and other donor assistance in managing the optimization of its hydropower resources. This is not surprising since Lao decision makers depend almost entirely on outside developers to build out its planned portfolio of dams under commercial build-own-operate-transfer (BOOT) concessions for export to neighboring countries. All of these dams are being constructed in a one-off, project-byproject manner with no prior input from the intergovernmental Mekong River Commission (MRC) or neighboring countries, and hence there is little practical opportunity for synergistic planning that could optimize the benefits of water usage on a basin-wide scale.

Because planners cannot see past the next project, it is impossible to determine to what extent the targets for the final power output of either Laos or the basin as a whole are achievable. Further, critical red lines of risk tolerance, particularly toward the environmental and social risks that impede dam construction, are unidentifiable because the government has little stake invested in the projects and derives few resources from the BOOT process to mitigate risk.

By 2020 roughly 30% of the Mekong basin’s power potential in Laos will be tapped by existing dams and those currently under construction. Beyond 2020 the prospect for completing the remaining 70 plus dams planned or under study by the Lao Ministry of Energy and Mines is unknowable. As Lao officials begin to realize they will not necessarily meet their development goals, there will still be time to transition to a basin-wide, strategic energy plan that meets projected revenue goals while minimizing impacts on key environmental flows through a combination of fewer dams and other non-hydropower sources of clean energy generation.

Bản đồ thế giới của bá quyền Trung Quốc

  • STEVEN W. MOSHER
  • VHNA – Thứ sáu, 12 Tháng 9 2014 06:06

Lời Người Dịch:

Bài dịch dưới đây là một Chương trong quyển sách nhan đề Bá Chủ: Kế Hoạch Của Trung Quốc Để Thống Trị Á Châu và Thế Giới, xuất bản năm 2000, và được Dân Biểu Quốc Hội Hoa Kỳ Dana Rohrabacher đánh giá là “có giá trị hơn cả các sự thuyết trình của Cơ Quan Tình Báo Trung Ương (CIA)”. Tiếp tục đọc “Bản đồ thế giới của bá quyền Trung Quốc”

Dams, Drought and Disaster Along the Mekong River

By: Jennifer Rigby
Date: Tuesday, May 10, 2016

This article originally appeared in IRIN News.

A dry riverbed in Cambodia.

A dry riverbed in Cambodia.IRIN

CHONG PRA LAY/CAMBODIA, 10 May 2016

internationalriver – The dry months before the monsoon rains arrive are often tough for Cambodian fishermen and farmers. But with rivers drying up and drinking water running out, conditions have rarely been as bad as they are now.

The current drought is linked to El Niño, which has been disrupting weather patterns around the world. But the harsh conditions today might only be foreshadowing far worse to come. Climate change will continue to affect the Mekong Basin region, while future droughts are expected to be exacerbated by a string of major hydropower dam projects.

Experts fear that the present crisis could become the new normal for Cambodia and its neighbours, which have also been hit hard by record temperatures and a long period of extremely dry weather.

“The combined effects of drought, climate change and dam building are pushing the resources of the Mekong Basin to the brink of disaster,” said Maureen Harris, Southeast Asia programme director of the river protection organisation, International Rivers. Tiếp tục đọc “Dams, Drought and Disaster Along the Mekong River”

Requiem for a river: Can one of the world’s great waterways survive its development?

economist – GUO, the driver, pulls his car to a merciful halt high above a crevasse: time for a cigarette, and after seven hours of shuddering along narrow, twisting roads, time for his passengers to check that their fillings remain in place. Lighting up, he steps out of the car and dons a cloth cap and jacket: sunny, early-summer days are still brisk 3,500 metres above sea level. Mr Guo is an impish little dumpling of a man, bald, brown-toothed and jolly. He is also an anomaly: a Shanghainese in northern Yunnan who opted to stay with his local bride rather than return to his booming hometown.

The ribbon of brown water cutting swiftly through the gorge below is rich with snowmelt. With few cars passing, its echoing sound fills the air. In the distance, the Hengduan mountains slump under their snowpack as if crumpled beneath its weight. Mr Guo recalls the drivers who have taken a switchback too quickly and fallen to their deaths in the valley below. He tells of workers who lost their footing or whose harnesses failed while building a bridge near his home town of Cizhong, 20 or 30 kilometres south. He pulls hard on his cigarette. “This river”, he says, “has taken so many lives.”

Tiếp tục đọc “Requiem for a river: Can one of the world’s great waterways survive its development?”

“Five Countries, One Destination”: Five Nations Jointly Market Their Tourism Industry

“Five Countries, One Destination”: Five Nations Jointly Market Their Tourism IndustryLaos, Cambodia, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam have agreed to jointly market themselves as “Five Countries, One Destination” in a move to bring more tourists to the region and integrate their tourism industries.

Director General of the Tourism Development Department, Mr Soun Manivong, told Vientiane Times yesterday that the programme will bring considerable profits to Laos as it’s located in the centre of the five countries. Tiếp tục đọc ““Five Countries, One Destination”: Five Nations Jointly Market Their Tourism Industry”