Mekong Hydropower Development

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Science  08 Apr 2011:
Vol. 332, Issue 6026, pp. 178-179
DOI: 10.1126/science.1200990

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The Mekong River is one of the world's last large rivers remaining mostly undammed. But China is constructing a series of eight hydropower projects on the upper Mekong. Although there are currently no dams across the mainstream channel (not including the tributaries) in the Lower Mekong Basin (LMB), nevertheless, in September 2010, the Lao People's Democratic Republic petitioned the Mekong River Commission (MRC) to begin the formal process of approving the first of 11 proposed dams across the lower Mekong (see the figure) (1). Although such a cascade would provide substantial power, it would likely reduce biodiversity and ecosystem service values of the LMB, while undercutting the livelihood and food security of millions of people. Decisions on this initial proposal expected over the coming months by the MRC countries may contribute to promoting high-impact hydropower development or to a movement toward integrated, transboundary river-basin management that could serve as a model for other rivers.