Tag: Hydropower and energy

Vietnamese Opposition Could Sway Lao Hydropower Plans

Vietnamese officials are criticizing the Lao government’s controversial plan to build a dam on the Mekong River. Analysts say opposition from Vietnam and other lower Mekong countries could force Laos to scale back its hydropower ambitions.

The $3.5 billion Xayaburi hydropower dam is the first of 12 dams planned for the lower Mekong. A Thai developer would build the dam, and Thailand would buy most of the 1,260 megawatts of electricity the dam would generate.

Lao officials say the proposed Mekong dams would cut poverty and bolster their land-locked country’s economy.

A Western construction worker surveys ongoing work to build a power plant for
the Nam Theun 2 dam, south of Vientiane, Laos. Photo: Reuters.

Criticism

But Vietnamese officials say the dam would jeopardize water supplies and threaten fishing on the river’s downstream reaches. Their recent comments echoed warnings by environmentalists that the Mekong dams would damage the environment and threaten the livelihoods of people who live near the river.

Analysts say political pressure from Vietnam and its lower Mekong neighbors – Thailand and Cambodia – could force Laos to delay or modify its plans to harness the Mekong’s flow.

Philip Hirsch, a professor of human ecology at the University of Sydney, told VOA that of the lower Mekong countries, Vietnam has so far been most publicly critical of Laos’ hydropower ambitions.

“The interesting question, which I think is very difficult for anyone to answer, is how these two countries, Vietnam and Laos – which are so close – are going to extricate themselves from what at the moment seem to be diametrically opposite positions on the Xayabouri dam,” Hirsch said.

Vietnam and Laos are both one-party states and Hirsch says Vietnam typically influences Lao policy “behind closed doors.” But Hirsch says recent criticism of the Xayabouri proposal by high-ranking Vietnamese officials has been “very public.”

All four lower Mekong countries will be closely watching a recommendation on the dam expected this month from the Joint Committee of the Mekong River Commission, an advisory body formed in 1995 to promote sustainable development along the 4,900-kilometer Mekong system.

Influence

But Hirsch points out that the MRC has no power to force Laos to abandon its plans for the Xayabouri and other Mekong dams.

“The MRC is not a regulatory institution,” Hirsch added. “It’s not a strong agency in that way, it’s one which has always worked on the basis of trying to achieve consensus, and if we’re looking for regulation from the MRC, I think we’re looking in the wrong direction.”

Hirsch says Thailand has vowed to stay neutral in MRC negotiations, which puts the onus on Vietnamese and Cambodian officials to address the Xayabouri dam proposal in discussions with their Lao counterparts.

Trinh Le Nguyen is executive director of the Vietnamese NGO PanNature. He tells VOA that although Laos has final say over the Xayabouri and other Mekong dams, Vietnam may pressure Laos by threatening to not invest in future Mekong hydropower projects.

“Vietnam can decide not to invest or buy anything from [Laos],” Trinh Le Nguyen said. “It’s one of the ways they can have some power.”

In October, an independent study commissioned by the MRC recommended that lower Mekong countries delay decisions on hydropower projects for 10 years, warning that Mekong hydropower dams would exacerbate food insecurity and cause “serious and irreversible” environmental effects.

China, which borders northern Laos, already operates four dams on the upper reaches of the Mekong River.

Source: Voice of America

Save the Mekong Call: Cancel Xayaboury Dam on Mekong River’s mainstream, Halt MRC PNPCA Process

In a letter addressed to Mr. Jeremy Bird, CEO of the Mekong River Commission (MRC), the Save the Mekong coalition calls on the Mekong region’s governments to cancel the Xayabouri Dam planned for the Mekong River’s mainstream in Xayabouri Province, Lao PDR, …

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VietnamNews: Dam-building threatens Mekong environment

HA NOI — Economic development on the Mekong River is short-sighted and unsustainable, environmentalists heard at a meeting in Ha Noi yesterday.

The meeting, entitled Mekong: Energy – Environment – Livelihood Security, was co-organised by PanNature, a Ha Noi-based non-profit organisation; the Viet Nam Rivers Network, comprising civil society groups, academics and community-based organisations; and the Henry L Stimson Centre, an independent, non-profit, public policy institute.

Delegates heard that the biggest threat to the future of the river, its fauna and flora, was the need to dam the Mekong for hydro-power. The Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta in Viet Nam was particularly vulnerable, participants heard.

The 4,800km Mekong flows through six countries – China, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Viet Nam. The Lower Mekong Basin in Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Viet Nam is home to more than 60 million residents from more than 100 different ethnic groups. Most of them are poor farmers and fishermen, whose livelihoods are dependent on the river.

Photo: ThienNhien.Net/PanNature

Representatives from PanNature said the Mekong is home to a diverse array of fish fauna, worth billions of dollars, that provide food security for poor communities in the river’s 795,000sq.km basin.

Participants heard that economic development and poverty alleviation were threatening the livelihoods of those who made a living from the river.

Participants watched a 15-minute video-clip entitled Mekong – The Tipping Point, that highlighted the dangers of damming the river for hydro-power projects.

Timothy Hamlin, from the Henry L Stimson Centre, said that development in Viet Nam need not threaten human security and regional stability.

About 50 participants from key government agencies, Vietnamese NGOs and research institutions attended the meeting.

Source: Vietnam News

Mekong Tipping Point – Vietnamese Version

This is the Vietnamese version of the 9 minute video analyzes the likely impact of building further dams along the mainstream Mekong dam in Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam. Featuring Dr. Richard Cronin, Director of the Southeast Asia program at the Stimson Center in Washington, DC, this video looks at the role of China, the importance of hydropower, and the implications of these new dams on the region’s bountiful wildlife. The English language video is available here: http://www.stimson.org/pub.cfm?id=871

Small and Medium Hydropower: Great Impacts on Environment but Less Supervision of Environmental Impact Assessment

This report is a result of the small research project supported as part of the fellowship program provided by the UNEP Eco-Peace Leadership Center for Ms. Do Thi Hai Linh, PanNature’s Communication Manager in 2006. The research was supervised by Dr. Jin Hong Kim Chung-Ang University.

Son Kim 1was the most damage by flooding in 2002. There was a whole village swept out in the flooding. Photo: UNEP-EPLC

Medium and small hydropower (MSH) development is booming in Vietnam in recent years. On one hand, MSH contribute to the national electricity grid to supplement energy for Vietnam’ industries. On the other hand, they cause a lot of severely negative impacts on natural and social environment.

Local communities play a vital role in the process of MSH planning, construction and operation. They may be either beneficiaries or victims of MSH development. Community consultation is a regulated requirement for environmental impacts assessment (EIA) for any MSH project in Vietnam. This adopts a grassroot democracy mechanism to minimize negative impacts that MSH might potentially affect local livelihood and community wealth. Community responses provide a significantly useful reference for decision makers to continue or terminate MSH project proposals.

However, some investors has ignored these requirements, or blind local communities due to their unadequate awareness to MSH impacts, or even some tries to violate or take advantage from gaps in EIA regulations to marginalise community consultation.

The survey was conducted in Son Kim 1 commune, Huong Son district, Ha Tinh province so as to address those concerns. The survey’s results showed not much difference between the assumption of the working group before the field trip and the fact. Local community were lacking awareness and understanding about the environmental and social impacts of MSH projects. They did not have enough capacity and opportunities to give feedbacks or consultation for MSH project.

Although giving some primary recommendations for Son Kim 1 situation, the working group should take deeper study to make this a tyical research that can be applicated in difference area and considered an example for the policy advocacy process.

Download the full report here >> (File PDF, 524 KB)

Hydropower Trend in Vietnam: The Less Mentioned Social and Environmental Side-Effects

Vietnam has good potentials for hydropower development with the watershed system consisting of more than 2,000 rivers and streams. In theory, hydropower can supply about 308 billion Kwh of electricity. Vietnam’s technical hydropower reserve of plants over 10 MW is 72 billion Kwh. There are about 360 sites suitable for installing hydropower plants with total capacity of 17.500MW1. This does not include other hydropower plants of smaller sizes.

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Nguyen Viet Dung on Stimson’s Regional Voices

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