A new publication aims to provide planning tools to support the sustainable development of dams for countries located along the course of the Mekong River.
The Mekong is home to the largest inland fishery in the world, in part due to its exceptional sediment and nutrient loads. With a massive expansion of hydropower development planned in the region these vital ingredients stand to be adversely affected, which in turn will likely affect fish production and consequently food security in an otherwise resource-poor region.
Fish, Sediment and Dams in the Mekong compiles WorldFish research to enable policy makers and planners to make informed choices in the siting of dams and future hydropower development strategies.
Sediments, the book notes, are crucial for the lives of all riverine species, and in particular fish, playing a role in respiration, nutrition, reproduction and migration, as well as shaping habitats. Dams built on rivers create an obstacle to the flow of sediments and result in sediment deposits collecting in dam reservoirs, and as a consequence, influence the volume, density and composition of sediments in rivers, as well as impact upon river ecology and fish production.
According to at least five independent studies, dam development is expected to result in a 60% to 96% reduction in sediment load in downstream Mekong waters by 2030.
Andrew Noble, Program Director CGIAR Research Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems: “With many dams being planned along the Mekong’s course, it is essential that governments in particular are made aware of the consequences such constructions could have for the fish and subsequently the people, markets and economies that depend on them.
“There is every reason to hope that, with the right precautions in place, countries located along the Mekong’s course will be able to benefit from the building of these hydropower dams – in the form of more stable power supply, and without dramatic or unforeseen impacts on local food resources. In this regard, this book will be a welcome contribution to the work required to create a more coordinated approach to the sustainable use of Mekong resources.”
The publication of Fish, Sediment and Dams in the Mekong follows a report recently published in Science Magazine and co-authored by WorldFish Senior Scientist Eric Baran, which highlights how the biodiversity of the world’s great rivers including the Mekong is under threat from hydropower development. Overall, dams are likely to impact fish resources in a number of ways that will not be related to sediments only, and dams themselves are just one among several human activities that impact on fish resources. The new publication echoes the sentiment of the Science paper by advocating a more sophisticated and holistic planning process that takes into account the cumulative effects of dams planned for the future.
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WorldFish is an international, nonprofit research organization that harnesses the potential of fisheries and aquaculture to reduce hunger and poverty. Globally, more than one billion poor people obtain most of their animal protein from fish and 800 million depend on fisheries and aquaculture for their livelihoods. WorldFish is a member of CGIAR, a global research partnership for a food-secure future.
CGIAR is a global research partnership for a food-secure future. Its science is carried out by the 15 research Centers that are members of the CGIAR Consortium in collaboration with hundreds of partners.