Do we ever learn from history?
Where the rest of the world seeks to take down damns and to help restore fish populations, Laos is building them. The Mekong River is a huge system, utilized by all of the Southeast Asian countries: Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Laos and China. The biodiversity of the Mekong is rich and vast including the Mekong giant catfish, the Irrawaddy Dolphin, and 70 or more other species . There have been issues of over fishing, over population, and now blocking of the Don Sahong channel, for a hydroelectric damn may have devastating impacts on the remaining populations. On top of that the Laotian Government is also allowing the construction of the Xayaburi Dam several hundred miles upstream that blocks the entire river. There are however plans to create passages for fish to move through.
The environmental manager for the Don Sahong Dam project, Peter Hawkins, says that if these passages do not prove to be sufficient they will continue to work on them to create the best bypass possible. Another environmental factor International River brings up is the nutrients lost in blocking the sediment flowing down river, this will most likely impact the rice farmers in a negative way.
Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand are not happy about this situation. In fact Thai villagers that live along the Mekong in Northeast Thailand have brought a lawsuit against the Thai government’s plan to buy up most the power that will be produced by the Xayaburi dam. There have been many protests and inquires for more environmental impact research to be done before construction of these dams. As of now the dams plan for construction are still going ahead even though there are court dates set for the future and outcomes to still be decided.
The fish management of the Mekong between these international borders is lacking big time and utilizing the legal system of Thailand may be to best opportunity to help ensure the lives of many species for the future.
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