VietNamNet 21 November 2010
VietNamNet Bridge – “Private power-holders and the wealthy elite have begun controlling the use of water resources of the Mekong River. Benefits will not go to the people of Laos, Vietnam or Thailand but to the pocket of the plutocracy,” Dr. Nguyen Ngoc Tran, former vice chair of the National Assembly’s Foreign Affairs Committee told VietNamNet.
To have sufficient power, Vietnam needs 23 Mekong Rivers
There is an urgent need for electric power for thedevelopment of Vietnam and the countries in the Mekong River downstream in general. Since 2007, there have been more and more construction projects for hydro-power plantsthe four downstream countries. There are at least 12 hydro power projects in Thailand, Laos and Cambodia at present.
But will these projects meet Vietnam’s demand for power or benefit Vietnam’s economy?
According to the Mekong River Commission’s research, hydro-power plants in the major flow of the Mekong River downstream can supply 11 percent of the shortage volume of power in the downstream from 2015 to 2025.
For Vietnam, by 2025, power projects in the Mekong River will provide 4.4 percent of the country’s demand for power. Therefore, to have enough power, Vietnam needs up to 23 Mekong Rivers.
These projects can satisfy part of the need for power, but they will have adverse impacts on societies, economies, ecological systems of many countries in the Mekong basin. Located in the downstream, Vietnam will suffer greater impacts from these projects, experts said.
So far, Vietnam has received large volumes of alluvial material from the Mekong River, which contributes to the existence of the Mekong Delta granary.
If power plants are built on the major current of the Mekong River, crude alluvial material will be deposited in reservoirs while the volume of smooth alluvial will fall by 75 percents, scientists said.
Seafood, which provides a significant benefit from the river, will drop by 42 percent for fish output and 17 percent for seafood output in general. In addition, some species of fish will disappear.
The biggest threat from hydro power plants is when reservoirs discharge water at the same time, which can cause earthquake in some areas.
It is clear that the benefit from the construction of hydro-power plants in the Mekong River are less impressive? in comparison to their impacts.
In addition, Vietnam can lose its source of? Control over? power once power selling countries stop selling electricity.
The plutocracy controls the river?
Laos will benefit the most from building hydro power plants in the Mekong River downstream. With a small population and small demand for power while its hydro power potential is large, Laos can become the major power supplier for Southeast Asia.
“If all 12 power projects are carried out, up to 70 percent of Laos’ annual revenue will come from exporting hydro power ($2.6 billion),” said Jeremy from the Mekong River Commission.
However, he said that Laos is incapable of building these plants itself. It needs private investors. Therefore, initially these projects will benefit private investors, not Laos. This will take at least 25 years, until these plants are handed over to the Lao government.
Dr. Nguyen Ngoc Tran, former vice chair of the National Assembly’s Foreign Affairs Committee, said that the plutocracy has begun controlling the use of water resources in the Mekong River. The benefit from the river will not go to the people of Laos, Thailand and Vietnam but to private groups.
National Assembly deputy Ky Quang Vinh from the Mekong Delta City of Can Tho questioned: “Should we place the lives of 20 million people in the Mekong Delta in the hands of some private groups?”
Vietnam should not be involved in Mekong power projects?
All attendants at the recent workshop titled “Developing hydro power dams in the Mekong River and challenges for Vietnam” agreed to delay these projects for at least ten years.
“Vietnam needs to be the first to make a strong statement about this? Be at the forefront of voicing its opinion? on this. the National Assembly will consider this issue and make decisions. During this time, Vietnamese companies should not invest in these projects,” Jeremy suggested.
If Vietnam doesn’t show a definitive attitude and take part in these projects, it will be very difficult for the country to raise its voice to defend its interest in the future, they said.
Vietnam has its advantage because Vietnam and Thailand are the major buyers of power in ASEAN. If the two countries don’t purchase power from these projects, which are designed to serve export, Laos will be unable to implement them.
hydro-power in the major flow of the Mekong River is the common concern of all relevant countries but China and Myanmar have not joined Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Thailand in the Mekong River Commission yet.
Dr. Tran called this situation as “same bed but different dream” because they share the river but each of them places their own interest above the common interest.
Experts suggested that Vietnam should convene with other countries to cooperate on shareddevelopment in the Mekong River to enjoy its full benefit.
Vietnam needs to seek the involvement of ASEAN and its partners and take advantage of the significance of the Mekong Delta granary to promote cooperation in the Mekong Delta.
Vietnam is a major rice exporter in the world. If its Mekong Delta is affected, so will the world’s food security