February 3, 2013
A fierce debate erupted at a recent meeting between Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Thailand over the US$3.5bil Xayaburi dam Laos is building along the Mekong River, which they all share. The controversy highlights the urgent need for Mekong countries to craft and conform to shared guidelines to both preserve one of the world’s greatest rivers as well as develop their economies.
The Mekong River, which flows from China into mainland South-East Asia, provides food, water and transportation to tens of millions of people. But riparian nations are building a string of dams to fuel their economic development which, studies show, could ultimately damage this ecosystem and stoke bilateral tensions. China already has four upstream, while mainland South-East Asian countries plan to build 11 others, including the Xayaburi.