Saturday, July 21, 2012

Managing the Mekong

Shada Islam in Dawn (Pakistan): ...As it prepares to host the ninth Asia-Europe Meeting (Asem) in early November, Laos is also gearing up for more international scrutiny of its policies. And with Vientiane situated on the bend of one of the world’s largest and most legendary rivers — the Mekong — world attention is focused on how Southeast Asia’s smallest and poorest nation is going to deal with increasingly shrill world demands that it stop plans to build a hydroelectric dam on the mythical river.

Laos is not alone in having to deal with controversy and potential confrontation over the sharing of the world’s water resources. Almost all majestic rivers — the kind that songs are written about and which have become part of our global heritage — are the source of tension among neighbouring nations. Think about the Indus, the Ganges, the Amazon and the Nile.

...Countries can either opt for competition and protectionism over water or decide to work together to ensure the equitable, efficient and sustainable management of water resources. Interestingly — and at least for the moment — Laos appears to have opted for the second track. After a spate of criticism from its neighbours over plans to build a huge, multi-billion-dollar dam on the Mekong, officials in Vientiane say work on the dam has been suspended in order to undertake further studies on the impact of the project.

Laos has made no secret of its plans to use the Mekong to expand its generating capacity and sell electricity to its neighbours. But according to reports, Foreign Minister Thongloun Sisoulith admitted recently at a regional meeting in Cambodia that the Lao government had decided to postpone the construction of the dam because “We have to do further studies”....

A gondola on the Mekong in Laos, shot by Ricardo Hurtubia, Wikimedia Commons via Flickr, under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license

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