Friday, July 8, 2011

Portland State University Report Reveals Uncertain Costs, Risks of Mekong River dams

(Portland, Ore.) July 7, 2011 – The ultimate price tag of building 11 hydropower dams on the lower Mekong River potentially far exceeds the benefits to the region, according to a report released today from Portland State University and funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

View the full report and video presentation

The study accounts for gains through power generation, but also for the predicted loss of fish as a food source, reduced flood protection by wetlands and disruptions in many other natural services where the lower Mekong flows through Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam, an area rich in biological diversity.

“There is a huge range of uncertainty in constructing these dams, and any future plans need to account for that,” said Robert Costanza, one of the authors of the report and Director of the Institute for Sustainable Solutions at Portland State University. “Plans also need to look at who would bear any negative costs. Is it developers, or the local cultures and communities?”

The net present value of constructing 11 dams was estimated to range vastly from a loss of $274 billion to a gain of $33 billion.

The report also suggests that aquiculture may not adequately replace loss to the natural fishery, a primary source of dietary protein for 60 million people that live in the region.

“Our aim is to contribute to the planning process to inform future work by the Mekong River Commission, an advisory body that coordinates the management of the Mekong’s resources. We hope that better, more integrated and participatory planning will improve the sustainable well-being of the Lower Mekong Basin and its people,” Costanza said.

Plans date back to the 1950s to build dams on the lower Mekong River, but none have come to fruition. Currently, proposals exist for at least 11 hydroelectric dams on the mainstream lower Mekong in Laos and Cambodia.

1 comment:

  1. I am intrigued by the this study's authors' belief that fish can only live and breed in rivers. In a former life I had substantial contact with the construction of the Kariba Dam on the Zambezi (the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe). The resulting Lake has generated far more commercial and recreational fishing than was ever achieved before the dam was built. Likewise I also knew well Lakes Malawi, Tanganyika, Victoria and Turkana (then Lake Rudolf), all with enormous fisheries. But apparently not a single fish will ever be able to live and breed in any of the Mekong Lakes. Now, there's science for you!