Sunday, November 18, 2012

Events from China Environment Forum: Transboundary Environmental Security in the Mekong River Basin

Transboundary Environmental Security in the Mekong River Basin

December 06, 2012 // 9:00am — 11:00am
Existing, planned and under construction dams in the Mekong River Basin look like domino game. Dams are but one major pressure on ecosystems in the basin, where resource provision and water management are increasing and projected to worsen over the next several decades. The water-food-energy nexus is often used to analyze these issues, but other drivers—land-use, population dynamics, social stresses, climate change—also point to challenging problems. Many of these issues cross state borders and the data are clear: state unilateralism cannot solve transboundary problems.
Recent developments are making this issue increasingly urgent. In November 2012, the government of Laos admitted that it was pushing ahead with its controversial dam on the Mekong in Xayaburi Province, despite opposition from Vietnam and Cambodia. The first of up to 12 dams planned for the Lao, Lao-Thai, and Cambodian stretches of the river, the future of the Xayaburi dam has huge environmental and socioeconomic consequences for all. Planned dams would block the spawning migration of hundreds of fish species and trap vital silt-borne nutrients, jeopardizing the food security, health, and livelihoods of 60-million people, as well as hard-won regional peace and stability.
Using current data to highlight regional social-ecological consequences, several paths toward a more sustainable and secure Mekong Basin appear. However, solutions to transboundary environmental issues in the Mekong are both technical and political; addressing one without the other cannot solve problems. For each Mekong nation, there are multiple reasons to support collective transboundary management that may enhance state stability throughout the region.
Speakers at this panel will discuss not only the problems of the dam domino game in the basin, but also highlight some signs that in this highly exploited basin shared by China and five Southeast Asian countries that more cooperative and sustainable approaches are available and being used. Whether the effects last remains to be seen, but for once "business as usual" in the construction of environmentally destructive hydropower dams is being challenged.

5th Floor, Woodrow Wilson Center

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