Damre village, Cambodia Photo: Glenn Daniels/Manna Gum

Mekong mainstream dams

Healthy rivers require connections to all parts of a free-flowing ecosystem to be economically, environmentally and socially beneficial to a shared future.

Twelve hydropower dams are proposed for the lower Mekong mainstream. If built these dams will cut across the whole river creating a barrier that will seriously impact the flow and hydrology of the Mekong.

Xayaburi Dam  in Laos is the first Mekong mainstream dam to begin formal procedures for construction. Sambor Dam in Cambodia if built will force the relocation of more than 19,000 people.

Managing rivers across borders

Oxfam supports an integrated water resource management approach (IWRM). This approach means taking social and economic welfare into account when coordinating the development of land, water and related resources. The process is achieved in a balanced way without compromising the sustainability of ecosystems.

This integrated approach to resource management becomes complicated in the Mekong region, as the river crosses through six different countries. Decisions made at one place in the river may impact other areas, as dams regulate downstream flow and river behavior. This highlights the need for holistic management that transcends country boundaries.  Not an easy thing to do.

Countries working together

To address these issues, the Mekong River Commission was created by the governments of Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand and Vietnam. The MRC manages the shared water resources and development of the river.

In 2009 the MRC commissioned a full Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) in response to the proposal to build 12 mainstream hydropower dams in the Lower Mekong Basin. The report was commissioned to ensure that decisions on the proposed dams were made with full knowledge of potential costs and benefits on regional development.

What is Oxfam doing?

Oxfam Australia has been working in the Mekong region for more than 20 years. We support a network of local and non-government organisations across the six countries in the region, linking grassroots village work with international and regional organisations.

Oxfam is an active member of global campaigning group Save the Mekong Coalition. We’re taking action by writing to the Australian Government, a member donor of the Mekong River Commission.

We’re also ensuring that communities know their rights regarding major development decisions that affect their environment and their access to the Mekong’s vital resources.

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