The decision by the National Assembly of Laos to approve the concession for the Don Sahong Dam has reignited concerns and criticism of the current development model, which includes 11 large dams on the mainstream of the Mekong River. If all of these projects go forward, they will likely have devastating impacts on biodiversity, dependent communities, and regional food security. Despite the pessimism surrounding the future of the Mekong River, the Stimson Center’s dam site visits and engagement with a multitude of stakeholders have revealed emerging political and financial trends that challenge the current “domino” narrative surrounding hydropower development in the region. Instead of the Xayaburi and Don Sahong dams being the first two of up to nine or eleven “dominos” to fall, these commercial-opportunity projects are likely to face increasing political and financial risks and uncertainties.
This panel discussion focused on the opportunities emerging, Stimson’s Southeast Asia team discussed the various emerging financial and political challenges to the traditional hydropower development model in the Mekong region. They were joined by Jeff Opperman of The Nature Conservancy, who discussed similar challenges seen elsewhere and highlight potential alternative development models that are being adopted by other countries seeking to develop river basins.
The conversation included discussion of the The Nature Conservancy’s The Power of Rivers study by Jeff Opperman and colleagues on sustainable hydropower at the system scale, as well as the newly-published Stimson report, Time for a New Narrative on Mekong Hydropower.
What: A panel discussion on the emerging political and financial challenges for the hydropower sector and alternative development options for crucial transboundary rivers, focusing on the Mekong River. This event marked the official release of Stimson’s Time for a New Narrative on Mekong Hydropower report.
Richard Cronin, Director of Stimson’s Southeast Asia Program
Jeff Opperman, Director of Sustainable Hydropower Strategy and Lead Scientist of the Great Rivers Partnership at The Nature Conservancy
Courtney Weatherby, Research Associate for Stimson’s Southeast Asia Program
Moderated by Brian Eyler, Deputy Director of the Southeast Asia Program at The Stimson Center