Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Dams threaten local basin: report



Dams threaten local basin: report

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Prime Minister Hun Sen inspects the Lower Sesan II Dam during its inauguration in September in Stung Treng. Hong Menea

Dams threaten local basin: report

A river basin hosting three Mekong tributaries and providing a livelihood for 3.4 million people is under threat because of the construction of 65 dams, according to a study issued in Phnom Penh on Thursday by conservation groups.

Conservation International (CI) and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) collaborated with Cambodia National Mekong Committee (CNMC) on the study, which evaluated the freshwater health of the ecosystem in the Sesan, Srepok and Sekong (3S) basin which spans Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam.

The research found that the ecosystems are facing “stress” and could hinder the livelihood of 3.4 million people. Despite a yearly budget of $10 million, conservation and restoration for the basin are limited.

The Freshwater Health Index (FHI) shows that the 3S ecosystem has a vitality score of 66 out of 100, indicating that it is “moderately healthy”. In addition, the report gave the area a score of 80 for ecosystem services, but only 43 for governance.

The groups pointed out that the dam constructions on 3S are seriously impacting the seasonal flows, sediment transports and fish migration.

Nick Souter, Asia-Pacific’s freshwater research manager at CI, who presented the study’s key results, said that 65 dams were constructed on the 3S basin, mostly for generating electricity. Of those, 59 are in Vietnam, five in Laos and two in Cambodia. In addition, one dam is under construction in Vietnam, seven in Laos and over 30 dams have the potential to be built in the basin.

“The dams cause sediment transports on the stream because [dams] block water flows . . . However, we don’t have specific data on water pollution,” Souter said.

Jake Brunner, IUCN’s head of Indo-Burma Group, said the governance and stakeholder’s score is the weakest of the three indicators, but that is not surprising to him.

“The changing of ecosystems just happened recently. The sediment and fishing issues due to dams did not seriously exist 20 or 30 years ago,” Jake said. He added that the importance of monitoring the basin has just come about in the last five years.

The conservation work needs around $10 million per year, half of which comes directly from the three nations, mostly from Vietnam, with conservation NGOs raising the remainder, according to Jake.

Te Navuth, secretary-general at CNMC, remarked that the key findings are very important to strengthening cross-border cooperation.

“Our roles are to assist the Cambodian government to coordinate the water resource management, preservation and development within the Mekong basin,” he said.

Dr Tracy Farrell, senior technical director from CI, said more collaboration from the three governments and stakeholders is necessary for sustainable development.

“The development depends on the agreements of governments on how to strive for preservation and development to reach the goal,” she said.

Srang Lanh, a Banong ethnic woman, who was displaced from her home by the controversial Lower Sesan II Dam near the border with Laos in Stung Treng, said

the closure of the dam is flooding their homes, farmland, crops and graveyards. She said much of the water is stagnant and unusable.

“It looks like an ocean because water does not flow. We could not use it normally like natural water,” she said.

MOST VIEWED

  • Phnom Penh unveils rules for post-lockdown transition

    The Phnom Penh Municipal Administration issued a set of detailed guidelines for the seven days to May 12 after the capital emerges from lockdown at the onset of May 6. In the 14-page document signed by municipal governor Khuong Sreng released on the evening of May 5, the

  • SBI LY HOUR Bank Launches Cross Border Money Transfer Service between Cambodia and Vietnam on RippleNet, utilizing DLT

    SBI LY HOUR Bank Plc and Hanoi-based Tien Phong Commercial Joint Stock Bank (TPBank) on Friday launched the first Cambodia-Vietnam money transfer service in real currency via RippleNet, provided by SBI Ripple Asia Co Ltd to provide safe, fast and convenient services. SBI LY HOUR

  • Gov’t issues guidelines as lockdown nears end

    The government has issued a five-page set of instructions to be enforced when the three-week lockdown of Phnom Penh and adjacent Takmao town in Kandal province ends on May 6. According to an announcement signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen on May 4, the instructions cover a

  • Cambodia ready to exit LDC status

    Cambodia is well-prepared to minimise economic risks when it graduates from its Least Developed Countries status, according to a senior official at the Ministry of Commerce on May 7. Four LDCs – Cambodia, Laos, Bangladesh and Nepal – met at a virtual workshop last week to explore potential

  • Nine US franchises eye Cambodia debut

    Nine famous US franchising companies are looking for business opportunities and expansion into Cambodia to build a footstep for a strong foundation in Southeast Asia. The US embassy in Phnom Penh, in partnership with the US Foreign Commercial Service and with support from the American

  • Jab drive announced for two more Phnom Penh districts

    The Phnom Penh Municipal Administration on May 15 announced a first-dose novel-coronavirus vaccination campaign for Boeung Keng Kang and Sen Sok districts from May 18-31, and a follow-up second-shot drive from June 1-15. Twenty vaccination sites have been set up in a combined 13 communes across both