The Push and Pull for Hydropower in Vietnam and Cambodia
Furthermore, China does not
provide notification regarding its “filling and spilling” activities. Historically, 50 percent
-rich fine-grain sediment reached the Mekong Delta, but now Chinese dams will capture 80 percent of this sediment, significantly
reducing the Mekong Delta’s fertility, upon which
Vietnam is reliant for 52 percent of its rice production.
Many of the Mekong B
asin’s key ecosystems have
developed as a result of seasonal flow fluctuations.
A large difference in wet and dry season flow has meant that farmers and fishermen, particularly those in Vietnam and Cambodia, have developed a system that complements the natural flows of the river. These flows, however, will now be disrupted by the dams. Dams additionally impede the migration of 87 percent of Lower Mekong migratory fish.
Fisheries account for nearly 12 percent of Camb
while adding over $750 million
annually to Vietnam’s GDP, and supply up to 60
percent of protein for local residents.
The Mekong River Commission found that aquaculture and reservoir fisheries would be unable to compensate for the loss of wild fish production, meaning that planned hydropower development will seriously threaten food security in the region.
Even worse, the impacts of climate change
low rainfalls and rising sea levels
will further threaten the livelihoods of farmers and fishermen while impacting the effectiveness of hydropower.
Besides dams on the main streams, tributary dams pose significant risks in part because they do not fall under the 1995 Mekong Agreement, which requires international consultations before construction begins, thus only requiring a notification to the MRC Joint Committee. A study by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America found that construction of all 78 tributary dams would produce less energy and pose greater environmental risk than the construction of just the northern six mainstream dams on the lower Mekong.
The study further found that fish productivity would drop by 51 percent if all proposed tributary dams are built, with the impacts of the Lower Sesan 2, which will soon begin construction in Cambodia by a Vietnamese SOE, likely being more serious than those posed by some of the mainstream dams.
EVELOPMENT AND THE
Vietnam and Cambodia have proven themselves to be some of the fastest-growing Asian economies over the last 20 years. Vietnam has averaged a 7.2 percent GDP growth rate over the last two decades, propelling it to the status of a middle-income country. Meanwhile
fast economic growth has still yet to raise it out of its low-income country status. As a consequence of their brisk pace of development, both
energy demands are increasing. To meet these demands, both Vietnam and Cambodia are exploring new sources of energy, including hydropower.
’s Energy Surplus
Vietnam’s energy production has consistently
outpaced consumption and nearly 100 percent of
Vietnam’s population has access to electricity,
even though only 30 percent of its population lives in urban areas. Since 2004, following declines in its oil production
, the country’s primary source
of electricity has been natural gas (which supplied
43 percent of the country’s
electricity in 2009). Hydropower and coal provide the majority of the
remainder of Vietnam’s
electricity needs (36% and 18%, respectively, in 2009); however, the proportion of electricity obtained from hydropower has steadily declined since the mid-1990s. Although Vietnam may consider itself the ultimate victim of mainstream Mekong hydropower development, it has also been behind the development of multiple destructive dams. In fact, Vietnam is currently exploring involvement
in one of Laos’ mainstream Mekong dams.
Furthermore, more than 30 hydropower projects