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Viet Nam concern over Mekong dams

Update: August, 16/2012 - 10:04

HCM CITY — Vietnamese experts have reiterated their call for a moratorium on dam building on the Mekong River, saying the lives of as many as 60 million people would be adversely impacted by those dams.

They said the loss of biodiversity and other ecological impacts would affect agriculture, aquaculture and other means of livelihoods in six countries, including Viet Nam.

In Viet Nam, two key economic sectors in the country's premier agricultural region, the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta, would suffer critical losses in rice and seafood production.

Dr Dao Trong Tu, former member of the Viet Nam Mekong River Committee, said the river runs across six countries, so dams on its upper reaches would have harmful impacts on a vast area of the river basin.

"Around 60 million of people could be affected in case 11 big dams that have been proposed are built," said Tu.

The dams would severely damage the ecosystem of the river and basin, and threaten food security in downstream countries, he said.

Tu recommended postponing by ten years the construction of the dams in order to make more accurate assessments of their social and environmental impacts as well as the risks involved.

Dr Le Anh Tuan of Can Tho University estimated that the dams would render hundreds of thousands of people homeless. He also said the river's flows would change and millions of tonnes of alluvia would be lost.

"Erosion along the river banks would increase remarkably and waterways shut down. The river's fishery resources would be ruined as well," he said.

Nguy Thi Khanh of the Viet Nam River Network said more than 1,300 fish species would be lost. "This loss cannot be compensated," she said.

Experts also warned that water levels in the river have decreased sharply under the impacts of climate change. Mainland China, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Viet Nam have all suffered drought in recent years.

Meanwhile, Daniel King, Southeast Asia Legal Director of Earth Rights International, said there was a need to strengthen regional institutions to improve implementation of a common legal framework on exploitation of the river,

"In addition to making findings and recommendations on the environmental and social impacts of the 11 dams, the Mekong River Committee should identify critical shortcomings that should be addressed prior to any dam construction on mainstream Mekong," he said. — VNS

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