via CAAI News Media
Friday, 09 April 2010 15:05 Steve Hirsch
CAMBODIA will become increasingly dependent on water controlled by China if proposed dams along the upper Mekong River are allowed to go forward, a researcher warned at a press conference Wednesday marking the release of a report on the projects.
The proposed dams – including several in China and Laos, as well as one each in Kratie and Stung Treng provinces – have the potential to generate much-needed revenue from electricity sales, according to the report from the Henry L Stimson Centre, titled Mekong Tipping Point: Hydropower Dams, Human Security and Regional Stability.
However, Richard Cronin, the report’s lead author and a senior associate and director of the Stimson Centre’s Southeast Asia programme, said the Chinese dams in particular could pose two significant problems for Cambodia due to their ability to regulate the release of water during the dry season.
First, Cambodia would become dependent on China to release enough water upstream to keep the Kingdom’s power-generation projects online during the dry season, particularly the proposed US$5 billion Sambor Rapids dam in Kratie, Cronin said.
In addition, he said, the altered hydrology of the river could threaten domestic fish production.
By green-lighting the dams in Kratie and Stung Treng, Cronin said, Cambodia is in danger of “incurring a dependency that it may not want”.
This argument is also emphasised in the report. “Several if not most of the lower Mekong projects,” it states, “will not be commercially viable without the release of water from the [China] dams at the right times and in the right amounts to allow them to operate uninterrupted throughout the dry season, when the normal flow is a tiny fraction of that during the flood stage.”