Scientists Warn of Catastrophe for Food Security in the Mekong

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“So far 51 dams have been built or are being built on tributaries to the Mekong River, mostly in Laos. At least 27 more could begin construction between 2015 and 2030. The PNAS study found that “the completion of 78 dams on tributaries, which have not previously been subject to strategic analysis, would have catastrophic impacts on fish productivity and biodiversity.” Many of these dams are not being discussed or monitored at the regional level.

89 dams appear, 100 fish species disappear

The Mekong River Basin is home to 65 million people. Dr. Guy Ziv, the lead author of the PNAS study and an environmental scientist now at Stanford University, told Nature that “Most of the people are poor and get 81% of their protein from subsistence fisheries.” As a result, the fates of the Mekong’s fish and people are closely intertwined. The study warned that if all of the proposed dams are built, fish productivity would drop by 51% and 100 fish species would become critically endangered.

Ziv and his colleagues highlighted the Lower Sesan 2 Dam in Cambodia, which will soon begin construction. The dam will block fish migrations on two of the major tributaries of the Mekong River, the Sesan and Srepok rivers. The impacts will likely be more serious than some of the dams proposed for the mainstream river. The PNAS study found that the Lower Sesan 2 Dam alone would cause a 9.3% drop in fish biomass for the entire river basin. Projects like this are not just a local concern, but a regional concern.”

Read more: International Rivers


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