Saturday, November 1, 2014

Is hydropower the right solution for Laos?

The Mekong Delta in Laos has significant hydropower potential, and the Laos government already announced plans to build there 12 dams which should, once fully operational, provide Laos with 260 MW of clean, renewable electricity.

However, scientists argue that hydropower  may not be the best renewable energy solution for Laos because of several major negative impacts associated with the construction of these dams.

The most pressing concern is that many locals depend on land and water provided by Mekong River and that the construction of these dams would have major negative impact on their lives because the construction of hydropower dams will prevent alluvium from going to the Delta.

To counter this issue locals would have to increase the fertility of the soil, and the simplest solution for this is to use more fertilizers in the cultivation. However, scientists argue that even with the use of more fertilizers the rice yields would still drop significantly in the next 10-15 years. Not to mention that the increased use of fertilizers would also hurt rich biodiversity of the region.

The proposed theoretical solutions such as this one with the increased fertilizer use are not applicable because this is the tropical region with huge amount of alluvium and rich biodiversity. Nguyen Huu Thien, Head of National Advisory Group on Strategic Environmental Assessment announced that no solution has been  found to "settle the negative impacts to be caused by the hydropower projects on the Mekong main stream."

The Laos government has already started procedures for notification, prior consultation and agreement although hydropower on Mekong Delta, for time being, looks to be associated with more drawbacks than benefits.