Bettering the Hydropower Decision Making Process in the Mekong
Posted Date: Friday, March 01, 2013 | Source: www.warecod.org.vn
The Mekong River and the hydropower dispute is a very fascinating topic involving many complex matters and surrounding numerous stakeholders. WARECOD's research project in collaboration with the organization CPWF (Challenge Program for Water and Food) focuses on the hydro power decision making process by the Mekong countries and how to better it. 

This project aims to develop strategies to better decision making methods with regards to hydro power development so that if a project is approved, it is done so with the consent and discussions from all relevant stakeholders, including local people, government officials, environmentalists, and NGO’s. Before this research project was approved, WARECOD identified and contacted researchers specializing in different areas such as economy, agriculture, and environment to help with the project implementation.

Additionally, data collection methods such as literature analyses, random sample surveys, and group discussions were also identified. After project approval, the research outline was developed and introduced to the 6 teams representing the 6 Mekong countries – China, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, and Myanmar. This project serves as a collective effort from the 6 Mekong countries to identify flaws in the decision making process and provide recommendations to better this process. 

From the Vietnam side, two hydro power projects – Yaly Falls Dam and the Pleikrong Dam – were chosen as case studies to point out the main issues and flaws in hydro power decision making. Although the two dams have been under operation for about 10 years, people who have been affected by their development and operation, especially those that have been displaced, have been coping with difficulties caused by these dams up until today.

Analyzing these two cases can bring about improvements as well as bring into light existing limitations in the decision making process. To collect data, the team prepared two sets of questionnaires for authorities and local people at the project sites.

Furthermore, a survey was conducted through the questionnaires and used at each project site; a total of 99 affected households were interviewed. The surveys demonstrated that though the resettled households did receive support, a majority of their livelihoods were deteriorated because the residential area that was chosen for them to resettle was not productive and led to a limitation in developing agricultural activities. Overall, the resettlement support for each household was not entirely reasonable.


When it comes to income generating projects, such as dam building, Mekong governments tend to think about the short term profit instead of the long term consequences that these projects have on the environment and local populations, and often approve them without properly discussing with other stakeholders.


Often, affected peoples are excluded from the decision making process and do not receive adequate compensation and rehabilitation entitlements. The bettering hydro power decision making project WARECOD is participating in aims to better the decision making process so that all stakeholders are accounted for, and so that hydro power development does not foster the economy for the price of local people’s livelihoods.

 

Water conservation NGOs in Vietnam and all other Mekong countries have had many annual workshops and meetings to discuss hydro power projects, though even today, Governments seem to call all of the shots. The only way to better something as sensitive as the hydro power decision making process is to have proper collaboration between NGO’s and the government. NGO’s are a good mediator between environmentalists, local people, and government officials and actually listening to their recommendations can be very beneficial to preventing deteriorated environments and livelihoods for local populations.
Reported by Madiha Vallani

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