Mekong hydropower dams mean $1B in losses for Vietnam

Before Its News 31 July 2011

The construction of 12 hydropower dams along Mekong River’s lower mainstream is expected to cause Vietnam an annual loss of between USD500 million and USD1 billion.

At a seminar recently held in Can Tho City, Nguyen Huu Thien, of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), said there would be 14,000 additional megawatts of electricity if the 12 dams are completed, of which Laos would take 70%, Thailand 11%, Cambodia 12%, leaving Vietnam with 5%.

He added, however, that agriculture and aquaculture are two key components of the Mekong Delta economy, and that construction of these facilities would cause Vietnam to lose between 220,000-440,000 tonnes of "catfish" annually, worth between USD500 million and USD1 billion.

The shortage of silt will raise risk for river bank landsides in the Mekong Delta region. He warned that the region could be turned into a desert in the future.

At the meeting, Le Anh Tuan, from the Climate Change Institute of Can Tho University, said alluvium and floods are part of the ecosystem of the Mekong River.

Tuan mentioned Man Wan Dam, completed by China in 1993 on Mekong River, without consulting any of the countries to be affected downstream. As a result, alluvium in My Thuan area in Tien Giang Province declined by 30% and in Can Tho by 40% in 2000.

Earlier, scientists from Vietnam Rivers Network said 12 hydropower dams planned to be built on Mekong River’s lower mainstream would put 20 million people at risk currently living in the Mekong Delta region, as well as generations to come. It would also pose a danger to food security.

According to the Saigon Times, the projects also drew objections from many nations and international organisations. The World Bank and the Asian Development Bank initially refused to finance the projects. The US also called for a delay in dam construction late last year.