Something fishy about proposed dams

August 27, 2012
Something fishy about proposed dams
Manwan Dan on the Mekong (Lancang) River in China. Photo by Ute Collier

(—Millions of people are in danger of going hungry if the construction of dams on the lower Mekong River in South-East Asia goes ahead, according to research from The Australian National University.

Dr Jamie Pittock from the Crawford School of Public Policy in the ANU College of Asia and the Pacific, and co-authors, studied the potentially devastating economic, social and of the proposed dams on the lower Mekong states of Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam.

"There are around 60 million people who live in these countries whose main source of protein is freshwater fish. Eleven major hydropower dams have been proposed on the main stem of the river, in addition to a further eight that are being constructed in China," Dr Pittock said.

"These dams will block the migration of , which will reduce the fish breeding and change the water flows. This will dramatically reduce the amount of fish available which will fall somewhere between 16 and 42 per cent, depending on how many dams are built."

Dr Pittock said a vast area of additional land and a huge increase in water would be needed to replace lost fish protein with .

"Some 2.8 million people are in danger of going hungry if go up by more than 10 per cent. Primarily from rural areas, they depend on fishing and farming for their livelihoods. If this protein is to be replaced, where would it come from and what would it mean environmentally?" Dr Pittock said.

"Countries like China are increasingly relying on hydropower because it is considered a low of energy. But if you lose and scale up the other sources of protein that people are already eating, such as poultry, pigs, goats and buffalo, how much water and land do you need?

"The answer is an awful lot. The amount of water required to produce this livestock would increase by six to 17 per cent and although this is a water-rich area, there are some places like Bangkok that are water-scarce.

"Converting rainforest to pastureland has implications in terms of carbon emissions, changes in land ownerships and impacts on the environment. Cambodia and Laos would be impacted most, and Vietnam and Thailand are already running out of enough land to grow livestock. There is still time for the Laos Government to delay any decision until there's better information, or agree not to the main stem of the river and maintain the wild fishery."

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not rated yet Aug 27, 2012
No matter how many mistakes we make in screwing up the natural order of things, we seem bound to repeat those mistakes & people suffer for the grandiose experiments of the political leadership.

Here in the USA we've finally figured out that our dams create a drop in the wild salmon stock, and we're starting to modify or tear down those impediments. Other countries at the insistence of their political leadership want to go back to the "dark ages" all the while imagining they are "modernizing" their cultures power production that only provides electricity for the power elites who want to air condition their villas while the masses starve.
1 / 5 (1) Aug 27, 2012
Don't the authors of this study see that is part of the point of putting the damns up? If you take a persons ability to self source food away you can make them buy from you and be dependent on you.
1 / 5 (1) Aug 27, 2012
Dams in the USA were primarily flood control mechanisms with power as a side benefit.

As the dams are torn down, more flood damage will occur. On top of that, agriculture that relies on dams will suffer.

"On May 30, 1948, a levee on the flood-swollen Columbia River ruptured, sending a 10-foot high wall of water crashing into Vanport (North Portland). Sixteen people died and Vanport—at the time, Oregon's second largest city—disappeared forever.

President Harry Truman flew west to see the devastation. Speaking to an audience in Portland, Truman said the flooding could have been averted if a network of dams along the Columbia, Snake, and Willamette rivers was in place. He scolded Congress and told them to get off the dime and fund the Bureau of Reclamation to complete its flood control projects.

Over the next 20 years, more dams were completed, adding flood control capacity, creating a 465-mile water transportation network."

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