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Stop the Mekong dams, say the river people

Update: December, 06/2015 - 12:00

The Mekong River has too many dams and no more must be built.

This is the opinion of many people who live along the river, in different countries.

Many can no longer catch fish the way they used to.

They also battle to farm as well as they once did.

This is because the river has changed from its natural ways.

Residents in Mekong Delta Province of An Giang prepare to catch fish. The construction of hydropower dams in the Mekong Delta River basin theatens livelihoods of residents living in the river basin.
Residents in Mekong Delta Province of An Giang prepare to catch fish. The construction of hydropower dams in the Mekong Delta River basin theatens livelihoods of residents living in the river basin. - VNA/VNS Photo Duy Khuong

AN GIANG (VNS) — Many people in Viet Nam, Thailand and Cambodia are demanding a stop to the construction of hydropower dams in the Mekong River basin, which they claim have destroyed their livelihoods.

The appeal was delivered at a forum held on November 11, 2015, in the southern Vietnamese province of An Giang by People and Nature Reconciliation (PanNature), TERRA and the Viet Nam Rivers Network.

Participants, who included nearly 200 people living in the Mekong basin, said the relentless construction of dams in the Mekong's mainstream in Laos and Cambodia posed a serious threat to the river's ecology and jeopardised the well-being of millions of people dependent on the river for food, livelihoods, transport, and a multitude of other needs.

The Mekong, the world's 11th longest river, is also the world's second richest river in terms of bio-diversity. Fed by the melting snows of the Tibetan Himalayas and monsoon rains of Southeast Asia, the 4,200km river is home to thousands of rare and endangered species of plants and animals.

The river and its countless tributaries nourish and support over 50 million people from China in the north to Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Viet Nam.

However, the construction of many mega dams for generating electricity on the upper Mekong River has already caused downstream impacts, especially along the Thai, Lao, Cambodian, and Vietnamese borders where communities have suffered declining fisheries and changing water levels that have seriously affected their livelihoods.

Long Sochet, head of the Cambodian Fishery Coalition, said the Mekong River provided 60 per cent of the main food, including fish, for Cambodians.

Since some dams were built on the river's mainstream to generate electricity, water levels and fishery resources had decreased significantly, seriously affecting agricultural production, the river's flow, and the livelihoods of those residing in the Mekong River Basin.

"Since 2013 we have witnessed clear changes in the Tonlesap River in which water levels have decreased and the water has been polluted."

Chirasak Inthayot of Thailand said after many mega hydro-power dams were built in the upstream Mekong River in China, water levels had changed, particularly in the dry season. The low water levels had affected production activities and made fisheries resources scarcer.

"If more dams are built on this river the damage particularly to fishery resources would be more serious, causing really bad impacts on people's livelihoods. Thais want to clearly know how the construction of dams on the Mekong would affect them."

Another Thai, Channarong Vongla from Loei Province's Chaingkhan District, said, "Despite the fact that only a few dams have been built in the upper Mekong River, they have had a severe impact on people's livelihoods, one of which is a sharp decrease in the fisheries resources in the river.

"This has caused incomes of people residing along the river to go down to a level that is not enough to support their families.

"If more dams, particularly the Don Sahong in Laos, are built they would have more bad outcomes. Thais do not want more dams built on the Mekong River.

"In September this year we collected nearly 6,500 signatures from people in Thailand, Cambodia, Viet Nam, and 77 organisations to protest against the construction of dams on the Mekong River.

"We will continue to collect signatures and then submit them to the governments of countries in the Mekong River Basin."

Truong Van Khoi, a farmer in An Giang Province's Phu Tan District, said his house was next to the Vam Nao River, a tributary of the Mekong.

"In recent years the water level in the flood season has been very low. The volume of fish has decreased by up to 80 per cent. Dozens of species of fishes that used to be seen during flooding in the past seem to have disappeared."

Huynh Thi Kim Duyen of Ca Mau Province concurred with Khoi, saying: "In recent years the water level in the Mekong in the flood season has decreased and so the alluvium brought in by the floods is no longer enough for estuarine deposits of 50-100 square metres unlike in past years.

"Worse still, the province has lost hundreds of metres of land to erosion.

"People in the Mekong delta have felt deep concern about the consequences of the construction of more dams on the Mekong for future generations."

Sa Wat of Thailand said, "The construction of hydropower dams on the Mekong River will affect the ecology, environment, and livelihoods in all six countries, including Laos."

He called on the governments of the countries involved to consider people's fears and sit together to find sustainable measures for the development of the region.

According to Dr Vu Ngoc Long of the Viet Nam River Network, the construction of the dams on the Mekong River Basin has made climate change more severe in the region.

"Along with strong protests by people in regional countries, it is necessary to do more scientific research and derive usable data to encourage the governments of the involved countries to take proper measures." — VNS

GLOSSARY

Many people in Viet Nam, Thailand and Cambodia are demanding a stop to the construction of hydropower dams in the Mekong River basin, which they claim have destroyed their livelihoods.

Hydropower means power made from the energy produced by running water.

The Mekong River basin is the entire area from where water flows down small streams into bigger rivers and eventually into the Mekong River.

The appeal was delivered at a forum held on Wednesday in the southern Vietnamese province of An Giang by People and Nature Reconciliation (PanNature), TERRA and the Viet Nam Rivers Network.

An appeal is a plea, or a request.

Participants, who included nearly 200 people living in the Mekong basin, said the relentless construction of dams in the Mekong's mainstream in Laos and Cambodia posed a serious threat to the river's ecology and jeopardised the well-being of millions of people dependent on the river for food, livelihoods, transport, and a multitude of other needs.

Relentless means carrying on and never giving up.

The mainstream of the Mekong River is the main river in the basin rather than other rivers than run into it.

Ecology is the study of how living things, including plants and animals, live with one another and also live off one another.

To jeopardise the well-being of millions of people means to do it harm.

A multitude of other needs means many other needs.

The Mekong, the world's 11th longest river, is also the world's second richest river in terms of bio-diversity.

Where there is strong biodiversity there are many different types of living things in the same place.

Fed by the melting snows of the Tibetan Himalayas and monsoon rains of Southeast Asia, the 4,200km river is home to thousands of rare and endangered species of plants and animals.

Monsoon rains are rains brought about by the monsoon season during which winds bring rains when they blow in one direction. Monsoons then bring dryness when they blow in the opposite direction.

The river and its countless tributaries nourish and support over 50 million people from China in the north to Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Viet Nam.

Tributaries are smaller rivers that flow into bigger rivers.

Tributaries that nourish people provide them with food, such as fish.

However, the construction of many mega dams for generating electricity on the upper Mekong River has already caused downstream impacts, especially along the Thai, Lao, Cambodian, and Vietnamese borders where communities have suffered declining fisheries and changing water levels that have seriously affected their livelihoods.

Declining fisheries means fisheries that produce fewer and fewer fish.

Since some dams were built on the river's mainstream to generate electricity, water levels and fishery resources have decreased significantly, seriously affecting agricultural production, the river's flow, and the livelihoods of those residing in the Mekong River Basin.

People residing in the Mekong River Basin are people who are living in the Mekong River Basin.

"Since 2013 we have witnessed clear changes in the Tonlesap River in which water levels have decreased and the water has been polluted."

To witness something means to see it.

Huynh Thi Kim Duyen of Ca Mau Province concurred with Khoi, saying: "In recent years the water level in the Mekong in the flood season has decreased and so the alluvium brought in by the floods is no longer enough for estuarine deposits of 50-100 square metres unlike in past years.

To concur means to agree.

Alluvium is sand and other things washed down by a river and left somewhere, often ending up as fertile soil.

Estuarine deposits are things washed down into estuaries, which are places where rivers enter the sea and there is a mixture of salt and fresh water.

"Worse still, the province has lost hundreds of metres of land to erosion.

Erosion is the reshaping of rock and soil by things like wind and water.

He called on the governments of the countries involved to consider people's fears and sit together to find sustainable measures for the development of the region.

Sustainable measures for development in the region are ways to develop the region without ruining it.

"Along with strong protests by people in regional countries, it is necessary to do more scientific research and derive usable data to encourage the governments of the involved countries to take proper measures."

To "derive usable data" means to find information that can be used.

WORKSHEET

Find words that mean the following in the Word Search:

1.      The area where water ends up in streams and tributaries, eventually leading to the mainstream river.

2.      A country with snowy mountains that feed the Mekong River.

3.      The Vam Nao River's relation to the Mekong River.

4.      Sa Wat's homeland.

5.      The country in which the Don Sahong Dam is situated.

 

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© Duncan Guy/Learn the News/ Viet Nam News 2015
































 1. Basin; 2. China; 3. Tributary; 4. Thailand; 5. Laos.

 

 

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