Mekong River, Laos. Pic: Adam Jones (Flickr CC)

Laos refuses to stop construction, China has already built a half dozen, reports Asia Sentinel 

Two crucial decisions face authorities this week on the Mekong River, one of the world’s greatest waterways and the primary source of fish for 60 million people. The Mekong, the world’s greatest fishery, is under growing threat from a wide variety of sources as riparian countries, particularly China build more and more dams on its tributaries.

Despite efforts to stop them, environmentalists warn, the most immediate threat is two hydroelectric dams being built in southern Laos on tributaries of the river, endangering fish populations, interfering with the river’s natural flood-drought cycle and blocking the transport of sediment downstream, which affects ecosystems along the length of the river.

The Supreme Administrative Court of Thailand is scheduled tomorrow to decide whether to accept a lawsuit against five government bodies, including the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand who have agreed to purchase 95 percent of the power from the Xayaburi Dam, now about 30 percent completed in southern Laos. And, on Thursday, a Mekong River Commission Council meeting is to be held in Bangkok to call for immediate action to stop the two dams.

“It is once again reckoning day for the future of the Mekong River, however this time around there can be no confusion as to the position of Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand. Laos must recognize and accept that the Mekong is a shared river, and decisions must be made jointly among Lower Mekong countries, to preserve the future of this irreplaceable resource,” said Pianporn Deetes, Thailand Campaign Coordinator for International Rivers, in a prepared release.

But the river is under threat from far more than the two dams. China has already built seven megadams on the upper reaches of the Mekong, called the Lancang in China, with another 20 planned or under construction in Yunnan, Tibet and Qinghai, according to the Berkeley, Calif.-based NGO International Rivers. The Chinese have never consulted the downstream countries on the construction of their string of dams.

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