An increase in power demand, volatile prices in international energy markets and concerns over carbon emissions have intensified interest in hydropower development – the Mekong’s indigenous renewable energy resource.
The debate on hydropower development in the Lower Mekong Basin is however, an emotive topic. Perspectives range from a moratorium on all projects to a green light for development to boost national economic growth. And because some large hydropower projects in the Lower Mekong export their electricity, governments see these potential earnings from hydropower development as a means for reducing poverty, lowering national debts, as well as achieving regional economic prosperity and energy security.
Over the past decade, the Mekong has arrived at a crossroads – whereas hydropower presents great economic and energy gains, at the same time, concerns have intensified over the potential cumulative impacts proposed schemes have on the environment, fisheries and people’s livelihoods in the Lower Mekong Basin.
To avoid transboundary impacts, the MRC is exploring sustainable options to hydropower development. Sustainable hydropower development moves away from narrowly approaching infrastructure as a way to meet the growing needs of energy services and focuses on thinking about the overall effectiveness of projects within a basin-wide perspective.
At present, only 10 percent of the estimated hydroelectric potential in the Lower Mekong Basin is developed. How Mekong countries decide to pursue future hydropower development is perhaps one of the most challenging strategic decisions they have faced since the signing of the 1995 Mekong Agreement. It is important that Member Countries work together to balance sustainability with development opportunities.
In response to this dynamic situation, the MRC focuses on advancing regional cooperation for the sustainable management of the growing number of hydropower projects from a river basin management perspective. This includes drawing effectively on international experiences, developing regional technical knowledge and sharing best practices relevant to all stages of planning.
The MRC is working with Member Countries on hydropower development strategies and policies, coordinated and integrated impact assessments, and consistent and fair mitigation measures.
Over the past several years, the MRC has conducted substantial research, monitoring, and modelling relevant to hydropower development. The Commission coordinates and integrate its hydropower-related activities into many of its projects.
A delegation of Chinese hydrological experts visited national Mekong committees in Cambodia and Thailand from 24 to 31 May 2017. Led by Mr Kuang Jian
The forum provided an opportunity for hydropower developers and specialists, government, research institutes, development partners and other regional and international organizations to discuss about hydropower planning and development in the Mekong Basin.
The Lower Mekong Basin is at greater risk to climate change with extreme weather events such as typhoons and heat waves and is also more vulnerable to floods and droughts that can affect people’s livelihoods and reduce agricultural productivity