In recent decades the Mekong region has witnessed a rapid development of large-scale hydropower projects in the name of energy security, economic growth and sustainable development. Yet do these justifications outweigh the social and environmental costs, and are these justifications even genuine?
From the Commons
One of the most beautiful sights in Vietnam’s capital of Hanoi is the large number of lakes and streams dotted around the city. The more than 100 small and large lakes are an icon, part of the local culture and benefiting Hanoi’s tourism. The lakes also provide environmental benefits like regulating city floods and providing quiet and green spaces for the city residents. But rapid urbanization is resulting in pollution, encroachment and degradation that is threatening the lakes. Without urgent and concerted action, the city’s lakes may become mostly dumps for rubbish and affect the health and livelihoods of the city’s residents and the scenic beauty of Hanoi.
An increasing number of mainly young people migrate from provinces in Laos to Thailand for work. They can learn new skills and their cash income supports families in their home provinces But the migrant workers face many risks including work place dangers, human trafficking and safety and health issues.
Women fishers in Kratie Province, Cambodia are concerned about plans for the Don Sahong Dam upstream in Laos. They worry that the river’s fisheries and the endangered Irrawaddy Dolphin will be affected. Working with civil society groups, they have raised their voice through a campaign that has involved both protest and radio shows.
Known as a national treasure of Cambodia, the Prey Lang forest in Preah Vihear province serves as the main source of livelihoods for indigenous people and is an indispensable part of the country’s forest ecosystem. In the last few years, the forest has come under destruction from logging and large-scale plantations. Youth campaigns are supporting the local communities, who depend on the forest, in an ongoing struggle to protect the forest areas from being completely wiped away.
Economic growth in Southeast Asia has bought jobs and increased state revenues, but also wrought labour rights violations, community dispossession of land and natural resources, and environmental degradation. Carl Middleton argues that economic reform starts with greater Corporate Accountability, including across borders.