Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - New Mekong guidelines lacking, government official says

New Mekong guidelines lacking, government official says

Boats dock on the bank of the Mekong River in northern Laos early last year at the planned construction site for the Pak Beng dam. International Rivers
Boats dock on the bank of the Mekong River in northern Laos early last year at the planned construction site for the Pak Beng dam. International Rivers

New Mekong guidelines lacking, government official says

A Cambodian representative to the Mekong River Commission (MRC) said yesterday that new guidelines for hydropower development agreed to late last month don’t fully address threats to the health of the imperiled waterway.

Chheang Hong, a representative of the Cambodian government to the MRC, said in an email that while the guidelines are a step towards cooperation between member states, the document “seems not to address food security, sedimentation and other significant concerns [such] as fishery production and catch . . . decrease as results of hydropower, sediment trapping and water diversion by upstream development”.

Hong also agreed with conservationists that efforts to mitigate the environmental impacts of hydropower dams would be ineffective and that fish migration across borders, among other environmental concerns, should be considered in future development plans, as should changes in hydrology, sediment and nutrient transport.

While “limited”, the new regulations do push for a better understanding of the impact of hydropower. They also recommend impact assessments be conducted earlier in the approval process for a project, Conservation International’s Dr Vittoria Elliott said by email.

She noted that the Cambodian government’s attitude towards hydropower may be shifting after last year’s opening of the Lower Sesan II dam on the Sesan River, a major tributary to the Mekong in Stung Treng province. Some estimates have projected a nearly 10 percent reduction in the country’s fish production due to the dam.

“[It] is not clear whether [Lower Sesan II] will be profitable, particularly in the dry season, and already, we know it has cut off access to important fish habitats (and we will see an effect on fish production),” Elliot said, adding that mounting worries over the nation’s ability to feed itself are taking precedence.

As for “the food security for the nation, I would be surprised if the government would want to threaten it further at this critical time or at any point in the future”, she added.

The Mekong River, and the interconnected Tonle Sap Lake, whose highly productive floodplain is fed by the Mekong’s annual flood cycle, provides for more than three-quarters of Cambodians’ protein intake in the form of freshwater fish.

“Research has shown . . . that there really aren’t viable alternatives to fish and if you can’t feed the people and can’t nourish them – there is likely to be a national crisis,” Elliott said.

MOST VIEWED

  • Two luxury hotels latest quarantine options for inbound travellers

    The Inter-Ministerial Committee to Combat Covid-19 has designated two luxury hotels as alternative quarantine options for travellers who wish to enter Cambodia through Phnom Penh International Airport – Sokha Phnom Penh Hotel & Residence and the Courtyard by Marriott Phnom Penh. In a notice detailing guidelines issued

  • Visa A holders get to quarantine at Himawari Hotel

    The Ministry of Health has permitted foreign diplomats, UN and International NGO officials to undergo quarantine at Himawari Hotel in the capital in case they do not have a separate place suitable for this purpose, but the government would not be responsible for the expenses.

  • Baby saved as mother is lost to Covid

    Newborn baby Neth David has had a rough start in the world. His mother, Vong Daneth, was seven months pregnant when she contracted a severe case of Covid-19. When it became clear to her doctors that she would not survive, they performed a cesarean section

  • Jabs for kids bring hope for school reopenings

    Cambodia is tentatively planning to reopen schools – at least at the secondary level – when the vaccination of children aged 12-17 is completed, even though daily transmissions and deaths in other age groups remain high. Schools across the country have been suspended since March 20, one month

  • Hun Sen: Get 12-17 age group ready for Covid jabs

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has told parents of children aged 12-17 in Phnom Penh and the provinces of Kandal and Preah Sihanouk to get them ready for vaccinations soon. “There is a need to vaccinate children and youths aged 12 to 17. According to the statistics provided

  • Covid rattles Phnom Penh’s retail landscape through H1

    The Covid-19 pandemic has rocked the retail landscape in Phnom Penh, with anxiety around infection risk keeping the masses away from shopping malls and driving retail consumption down by nearly five per cent in the first half of this year, compared to July-December 2020, according to