Why do we need this Dialogue?
The operation of cascade hydropower projects in the Mekong Basin is seen to be causing environmental and social impacts, including vegetation changes, irregular flow patterns, and decline in water quality, affecting riparian communities. In particular, the decline in levels of dissolved oxygen, necessary to sustain aquatic life and the Mekong’s rich fishery, tourism industry, and clean water supply, has been raised as a shared concern for the Lower Mekong region. Examples of such impacts have already been reported to Lower Mekong Initiative (LMI) – Sustainable Infrastructure Partnership (SIP) from the Nam Pong Basin in northeast Thailand, the Sesan Basin spanning Viet Nam and Cambodia, and the Nam Ngum Basin in central Lao PDR.
There is evidence that the cumulative effects of cascading hydropower dams are more complex than those of single dams, with implications for habitat fragmentation, changes to river flows, and loss of vegetation types and their distribution in the whole watershed. While eight hydropower dams have been constructed to date in the upper Mekong Basin in China, additional hydropower projects are planned for construction on the Lower Mekong; thus, the cumulative impacts of dam operation are likely to increase.
Scientific studies have recommended that the harmful impacts of hydropower projects could be mitigated through joint action by dam operators, for example, by coordinating flow releases, flushing, and sluicing activities during critical periods, and water quality mitigations technologies and techniques. However, coordinating such activities will not happen without transboundary dialogue among Lower Mekong government agencies, hydropower operators, stakeholders and experts to agree on appropriate actions.
Lower Mekong Initiative (LMI)-Sustainable Infrastructure Development (SIP) implemented by Pact, collaboration with US Department of Energy (DOE), US National Laboratories, and partners are organizing the Lower Mekong Cascade Hydropower Management Dialogue on September 26, 2019, in Bangkok, Thailand to explore the possibilities for basin-wide cooperation among hydropower dam operators. The meeting will facilitate discussion among Lower Mekong water and energy agencies, hydropower dam operators and investors, experts, and local community representatives, inviting them to share their experiences and address shared concerns around the development and management of Lower Mekong cascade hydropower projects.
We anticipate that the meeting will develop policy recommendations for mitigating the potential negative impacts of dam development, including proposals for dam design, investment, operation and coordination with other dam operators on the Lower Mekong cascade. The meeting will consider the possibility of developing joint technical guidelines on Cascading Hydropower Management that are tailored specifically for the Lower Mekong Basin, as a useful addition to existing guidelines, tools and studies.
The dialogue will:
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