Environmentalists say dam constructions on the Mekong River will cause widespread impact on both animals and the lives of the people in the lower Mekong region, especially in southern Laos where dams will reduce the Irrawaddy dolphins' population and push them closer to extinction.
Ms. Premreudee Daoreuang, coordinator of the Mekong conservation group TERRA or Towards Ecological Recovery and Regional Alliance, asserted that the construction of as many as 11 hydroelectric dams on the segment of the Mekong River that runs through Laos, Thailand and Cambodia will cause widespread impact on both animals and the lives of the people inhabiting the lower Mekong region. The dams will not only change the pace of the flow of the water's currents, but also its quality after it passes through the electricity generating process. This water will negatively affect the natural environment that is the habitat, breeding grounds and source of food for the fish. And that will subsequently and inevitably impact the food sources and supplies of some ten million people living in the lower Mekong region.
A case in point, said the coordinator for the Thailand-based TERRA group which is a coalition of more than 20 Thai as well as regional and international environmental organizations, is the dam project on Don Sahong in the Siphandone (Four Thousand Islands) and Li Phi areas of Laos' southern province of Champassack. She said this dam will obstruct the waterway that fish and other water species in that area use all year round to travel back and forth from Laos' Siphandone area to the Tongle Sab Lake in northern Cambodia.
Meanwhile, a recent report by the privately-funded animal conservation group World Wild Fund, or WWF, said the lower part of the Mekong River has become so polluted and contaminated that as many as 88 Irrawaddy dolphins have died since 2003, because of toxic substances such as the DDT pesticide that is used in agriculture, and PCB that the WWF Cambodia Office believe is generated from mining in Laos, particularly the copper and gold mining in Savannkhet Province. The WWF added that more than 60% of the dead dolphins were less than two weeks old, so their population will be significantly reduced in the future, putting them in immediate danger of extinction. WWF found that there are currently no more than 76 of the rare Irrawaddy dolphins left, inhabiting a 190 km stretch of the Mekong River between southern Laos and northern Cambodia.
Songrit Pongern reported from Bangkok on June 26, 2009. Listen to Songrit's report for more details in Lao, or read our Lao text. (English translation by Buasawan Simmala and Dara Baccam.)