News reporting on National Geographic on 7 November 2013 covers the issue of Mekong River dams in Laos. You may remember Xayaburi dam from earlier posts. This is a project in tandem with Thailand. Thailand is so involved in fact that it is a Thai company constructing and leading the project and 80% of the generated energy will export to Thailand. After recent political changes and cancelation of plans to build controversial dams in Thailand, one wonders about the political reasons for building in Laos.
Laos recently came forward with plans for a second mainstream dam on the Mekong. This next dam, the Don Sahong Dam, is close to the Cambodian border and heavily touristed (because it is beautiful) four thousand islands. This has environmentalists in an uproar. The very sensitive Tonle Sap fishery is just south of this newly proposed dam. Not to mention the fragile ecology that supports very few remaining Mekong dolphin right in the four thousand islands region where the dam is planned. There may be less than 400 of these mammals in the water, and no protection measures visibly enforced to ensure their populations.
Mekong River is a resource that regional political stability and economic growth is pressuring change and exploit potential at a national scale for regional economic and development benefits. The dams in this region were planned before the Vietnam War by external powers, but are now being realized in a time of peace by regional powers. Xayaburi was the first, but as feared by international agencies and organizations, is one of a trend for the Mekong River. Southeast Asia is changing rapidly, and rivers are only part of the story. Check out Sandra Postel's appeal below: