If one is living in the great Pacific northwest, as I am today, one would become
quite familiar with the issue of river damming as well as its associated social and
ecological impacts. The effects can span generations and become a divisive issue
for people and communities across the region.
The damming frenzy of the Columbia River in the early years of development of America's
northwest, for instance, was thought to be a great cause.
Indeed, the construction of the Bonneville Dam and the Grand Coulee Dam, along with
many other small ones in the states of Oregon and Washington, were a great success,
economically speaking. These dams directly assisted in the development of America's
northwest. The famous Boeing industry, which built some of the world's great airplanes
for instance, flourished with the cheap electricity produced by hydropower derived
from the Columbia, one of America's "former" great rivers.
Today, however, people are slowly realizing the social and ecological impacts from
these dams. Government officials and environmentalists are seriously considering
the removal of these dams from the Columbia River.
Why, you ask? The once abundant wild Pacific Salmon and other fish species, that
the people and the fishing industry depended upon for their livelihood for hundreds
of years, were essentially wiped out. The native-Americans, who had lived along the
banks of the Columbia for thousands of years, were especially hit hard by this development.
Their rich traditions and cultures along the Columbia River basin have been in steep
decline ever since.
Now let's fast-forward to today's somewhat pristine Mekong River. This "Mother
of Rivers" and the native people along its banks, has not yet been greatly impacted
by the damming and hydropower industry. But that era is about to change very drastically.
With Communist China's spearheading the damming, blasting, dredging, and development
of the Mekong River-with little regard for social and environmental impact-the lives
of more than 65 million people down stream will be altered forever. If the Columbia
River is an example to go by, the development of the Mekong River could be a gigantic
mistake that threatens millions of people's lives and their livelihoods, as well
as the river's natural ecology.
I am very concerned for the Great Lake, the fabled Tonle Sap Lake, and also my people
who depended on its rich bounties for thousands of years. The annual-natural water
cycle could be irretrievably interrupted by the current and proposed development
up stream by China. Such development could destroy the Tonle Sap Lake and the millions
who depend on it, not to mention the Mekong Delta, the "rice bowl" for
millions of Vietnamese. Sadly, very few "potential victims" of this development
(if one can really call it as such) realize what is going to happen to them.
It would be too late by the time they recognize this impending danger, as the Native
Americans of the Columbia River Basin have learned the hard way. It is too late for
the Columbia River, but it is not yet too late for the Mighty Mekong River and the
Tonle Sap Lake! Please help save and preserve this River of Life for future generations.
- Ronnie Yimsut, Oregon, USA