Hydropower plants’ dams will turn Mekong Delta into desert

VietNamNet Bridge 3 August 2011

Mekong River Delta may turn into a desert sea if 12 dams for hydropower plants are built on the river upstream, according to Nguyen Huu Thien, MA, an independent researcher about the possible impacts on the ecosystem of Mekong Delta.

Rivers would die, sea would swallow Mekong River Delta

To date, governments of the countries have drawn up 12 projects on building dams for hydropower plants on Mekong Delta. Vietnamese scientists have warned that if the projects become true, they would do more harm than good to the Mekong River Delta.

Experts said at the workshop discussing the possible impacts of the dams on the ecosystem held in Can Tho City on July 28, that if all the 12 hydropower projects are implemented, the volume of electricity Vietnam would only be able to import from the projects would account for less than five percent of the total electricity demand of Vietnam by 2025. Meanwhile, the dams and water reservoirs would make the lower course of Mekong Delta exhausted.

The dams would also badly affect the water natural resources, agricultural production, aquaculture, water transport, ecological environment, and influence the lives of local residents.

The national consultative group on surveying and assessing the strategic environment of the hydropower plants’ dams on Mekong River has pointed out that the dams would become the great walls which prevent fishes to emigrate and reproduce.

Therefore, the Mekong River Delta may lose 240,000-480,000 tons of white fish, which may cause to the loss of one billion dollars. Millions of poor people who have been living on fishing and aquaculture would become miserable.

The scientists have also estimated that in food production and aquaculture alone, the Mekong River Delta would incur the loss of two billion dollars which is equal the total expenses needed to build seven Can Tho bridges.

Currently, Mekong River Delta gets 160-165 million tons of alluvium from the upstream. However, the figure has been forecast to decrease to 42 million tons, once the dams are built on the upstream. Once the volume of alluvium decreases, the rice productivity in Mekong River Delta would decrease sharply.

Especially, the Mekong River Delta would sink fast below the seawater level, and the process would be sped up with the impacts of the seawater level rise caused by the climate changes.

In general, the dams are believed to cause serious environment pollution, severe changes to the ecosystem and upset the cultivation of Mekong Delta’s residents.

A lot of questions were posed at the workshop: What is behind the construction of the dams? Why do many countries, which have sufficient electricity already, still want to build dams? Why does China still want to develop hydropower projects in other countries, even though the energy sources will stay outside China and will not flow to China?

Dr Dao Trong Tu, an expert from the Vietnam River Network, thinks that it is very difficult to find out a “win-win” solution for now. In case a “win-lose” measure is implemented; Vietnam’s Mekong Delta will lose many things, while it will get nothing.

According to Dr Duong Van Ni, director of the Hoa An Center for Bio-diversification Experimental Research under the Can Tho University, every year, Mekong Delta provides seven million tons of rice, more than one million tons of catfish and 3-4 million tons of fishes and shrimps, not only to the 18 local residents, but to many countries and the territories in the world.

C. V