In recent decades the Mekong region has witnessed a rapid development of large-scale hydropower projects in the name of energy security, economic growth and sustainable development. Yet do these justifications outweigh the social and environmental costs, and are these justifications even genuine?
Inside Lao PDR, the Mekong hydropower projects are presently being built in an atmosphere of fear where local communities cannot express critical opinions, ask questions or request information. This article explores why this repressive atmosphere means we will never really know what these affected local communities think or feel about the many dams being built for so-called “development” and “rural benefit”.
Lao PDR is aiming high by promoting casinos mainly with Chinese investors. But these monumental structures are endangering local livelihoods, dispossessing farmers of land and inviting armed crime into previously quiet rural areas. Melinda Boh explores these dubious investments taken in the name of rural development and reducing poverty.
The first regional consultation for the Don Sahong hydropower dam in Laos produced more questions than answers. The dam threatens the region’s capture fisheries and will have high costs for local livelihoods. The authors explain why, as Laos embarks to become the energy hub for the Mekong Region, dams risk increasing rural poverty.
Bangkok’s ever-expanding electricity demand is contributing to environmental and social injustices through the generation of electricity far away from the city. This includes in the Mekong River basin, particularly through the expansion of hydropower dams in Laos.
Governments and developers promote large hydropower as clean energy necessary for economic development. In most cases, developers prepare Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs). But rather than raise questions about whether the dam should be built, EIAs become the first step to enable “river grabbing”
The community living around Boeung Kak Lake in Phnom Penh, Cambodia have been fighting eviction by developers who wish to fill up the lake and turn it into a luxury urban development. This article outlines how members of the community took on the powerful World Bank and eventually put a stop to the eviction.
The Lower Sesan 2 hydropower dam in Cambodia will affect tens of thousands of people if built. This article shows how lessons have not been learned from past upstream dam construction in Vietnam, and the project will mainly reap profits for the dam developers, rather that result in “poverty reduction”.
While opening up to greater democracy, Myanmar is entering a period of neoliberal market reforms and privatization of its natural resources. Newly drafted “land concession” legislation favor agribusiness, and land grabs result from continued government reliance on top-down authoritarian approaches to development.
In the Mekong Region, after decades of governments, donors, corporations, experts and others pursuing development, winners and losers have emerged. In this first “Commons Comment” editorial, we discuss the changing lives in the Mekong Region, new development trends, impacts on the commons, and why Mekong Commons was initiated.