Dam Dilemmas: Competing Priorities for Development of the Mekong River

The determination of Laos to go ahead with the construction of two mainstream dams on the Mekong River despite the strong objections of Vietnam and Cambodia is testing the strength and effectiveness of the Mekong River Commission (MRC), established to coordinate the environmentally sustainable and equitable development of the Lower Mekong.  To address these urgent issues, the Stimson Center worked with a local partner to convene more than three dozen internationally respected scientists, development experts, civil society advocates, and current as well as former officials in Chiang Rai, Thailand, to discuss finding solutions to competing and mutually exclusive uses of one of Asia’s most important water resources. This event discussed the findings of that conference and serve as the official launch for Letters from the Mekong, a new series of issues briefs focused on the critical energy-water-food-livelihood nexus in the Mekong Basin.

WHAT: Discussion of the competing national priorities in the Lower Mekong River basin. The launch of the new issue brief Letters from the Mekong: Obstacles to Equitable Hydropower Development Planning in the Lower Mekong Basin. 

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Dr. Richard Cronin, Director of Stimson’s Southeast Asia Program, will analyze the competing national priorities that pose obstacles to cooperative development of the Mekong River basin. Dr. Cronin works on transboundary and nontraditional security issues in Southeast Asia and the South China Sea from a political economy perspective. Cronin joined Stimson in 2005 after a long career with the Congressional Research Service.

Courtney Weatherby, Research Associate of Stimson’s Southeast Asia Program, will discuss the recent legal cases that impact regional development and workshop takeaway points on the urgent need for national environmental and social impact laws and regulations as a base point for agreement on a “Mekong Standard” for cumulative transboundary impact assessments. Ms. Weatherby’s research focuses on hydropower development, environment, and energy in Southeast Asia, with particular focus on China’s involvement in regional affairs.

Dr. Yongmin Bian, Visiting Researcher at Georgetown University Law Center, will present on China’s environmental laws and enforcement issues as well as their status in regard to the involvement of Chinese companies in Lower Mekong dam projects. Dr. Bian is visiting from China’s University of International Business and Economics. She has worked on public international law, international environmental law, international trade law, and food safety laws. Her current research focuses on methods for holding overseas investors accountable for environmental damage. 

View video from this event below or here.

Part of the Mekong Policy Project
Southeast Asia
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