A Cambodian government decision to postpone building new hydropower dams on the Mekong river has been welcomed by campaigners, who say it will provide welcome relief to the tens of thousands of people whose livelihood depends upon its rich resources.
Cambodia announced on Wednesday that it would not build any new hydropower dams on the mainstream Mekong for the next decade, allaying fears that the river’s fragile biodiversity could be further devastated by development projects.
Mr. Mak Bunthoeurn, project coordinator of the NGO Forum in Cambodia, said many communities alongside the river feared they would be forced to abandon their homes and livelihoods if previous plans to develop a dam went ahead. '
'They have time to enjoy the river. For their livelihood they depend on the fish they receive from the Mekong river and the ecosystem,' he said. He hoped the 10-year suspension would give campaigners time to encourage officials to abandon dam projects entirely. The Mekong, which supports the world’s largest inland fishery, flows from the Tibetan plateau down to the South China Sea, passing through or by Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. Across the region at least 60 million people depend on its resources but it is increasingly threatened by hydropower development as well as climate change and the illegal wildlife trade.
Cambodia had announced plans for two dams at Sambor and Stung Treng but both are now on hold. Mr. Victor Jona, the director general of energy at Cambodia’s energy ministry, said the decision came after a Japanese consultant recommended Cambodia seek energy elsewhere. 'According to the study we need to develop coal, LNG, imports from neighbouring countries and solar energy,' he said, adding that he could not give details contained in a government master plan. 'In this 10-year plan, from 2020 to 2030, we have no plans to develop a mainstream dam,' he said. The country has not ruled out constructing dams on Mekong tributaries.