Sunday, August 3, 2014

Planned dams threaten Cambodia's food security

IRIN: The planned construction of 88 hydroelectric dams in the lower Mekong basin by 2030 will cause food security challenges in Cambodia, experts say. “Cambodia is going to pay the highest price for dam development basin-wide, to the point of affecting the food security of its 80 percent rural population,” Eric Baran, a specialist with the WorldFish Centre, an international research NGO based in Phnom Penh, told IRIN. “Worldwide, there is no bigger consumer of freshwater fish than Cambodia.”

By 2030, multi-national developers plan to construct 11 dams on the Mekong river mainstream, and 77 dams on its tributaries, in an effort to meet the growing demand for electricity in Cambodia, China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Electricity demand is already intense, and growing. According to a 2010 hydropower assessment report commissioned by the Mekong River Commission (MRC) - an inter-governmental agency shared by Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand and Vietnam - Vietnam and Thailand account for the majority of electricity consumption today and will account for 96 percent of power demand in the Lower Mekong Basin (which consists of Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam) by 2025.

With its fish-heavy diet, Cambodia will feel the crunch of the dams as water courses change and fish migration routes are blocked. Attempts to change agricultural practices and diets face major challenges in the fish-dependent country.

A 2013 study led by Cambodia’s Ministry of Fisheries showed that Cambodians eat on average 173 grams of fish per day; the world’s average is five grams. Consumption could drop to 80g per person per day by 2030, the report argued, due to the construction of the dams...

Dried fish for sale in Cambodia, shot by McKay Savage, Wikimedia Commons via Flickr, under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license

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