Conflicting Agendas in the Mekong River: Mainstream Hydropower Development and Sustainable Fisheries
Abstract .—Development of hydropower dams on the mainstream of the Mekong River is highly contentious, particularly in Laos where two mainstream dams are under construction and another seven are planned. The debate revolves predominantly around the economic development associated with increased electricity supply and sales, versus the livelihood disruption resulting from the degradation of the traditional uses of the river (primarily fisheries) and other ecosystem services. Assessment of policy and management indicates six lessons relating to the governance of the Mekong and potentially other large transboundary rivers. These are that decisions about resource use can be unrelated to resource management, different public viewpoints and value judgments by political leaders must be acknowledged, integrated planning is essential for rational development of natural resources, decentralization of government hinders sustainable management of natural resources, technical information is essential for decision making and assessment of trade-offs, and difficulties in comparing monetary and nonmonetary values encumber policy development.