Fishermen, farmers and residents from the six countries which make up the Southeast Asian Mekong region are urging their governments to abandon plans for hydropower development along the river’s mainstream, which is home to the world’s largest inland fishery and has a diversity of aquatic animals second only to the Amazon River.
The Mekon River runs from the Tibetan Plateau through China, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam and feeds over 60 million people. Eleven dams are planned by the three lower mainstream countries; seven are in Laos, two in Cambodia, and two on the Thai-Lao border.
Last Wednesday the Save the Mekong coalition presented the petition to Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva. The coalition is a network of non-government organizations, community groups, academics, journalists, artists, fishers, farmers and ordinary people from within the Mekong countries and internationally.
‘Broken ecosystems, soil erosion, bad impact of changed water flow on the transport system and dry fields are among the key concerns of Vietnamese farmers and citizens living along the river,’ said Ngo Xuan Quang from Aquatic Ecology and Biodiversity.
Recent official estimates place the annual value of the river’s wild capture fisheries at around US$3 billion. The dam will block massive fish migrations that account for up to 70 per cent of the commercial fish catch from this river, and that ensure regional food security.
‘Acting to protect the Mekong’s natural wealth will ensure sustainable economic growth, protect food security and promote regional peace and prosperity,’ said Chhith Sam Ath, executive director of the NGO Forum on Cambodia, in his statement to PM Abhisit.
‘In a world facing a growing food and water crisis, we are asking the region’s leaders to work together to protect the Mekong River for the benefit of all the region’s people and to pursue better ways to meet the region’s electricity need,’ said Sam Ath.
Vietnam News/Asia News Network