WWF Statement Regarding the Laos Dam DisasterAttributed to Marc Goichot, Lead, Water, WWF-Greater Mekong
WWF sends condolences to those who lost their lives and homes in the collapse of the dam in Southern Laos’ Attapeu Province. We hope that the rescue efforts succeed for those still in harm’s way and that they are supported in their recovery.
The collapse of temporary dams following heavy rainfall at beginning of rainy season is a painful reminder that hydropower is a high-risk infrastructure that requires not only advanced engineering skills but also good governance.
Large hydropower projects are incredibly risky as we have just seen, and they also have massive impacts. They severely reduce wild fisheries production and thus food security. They block sediment from traveling downstream, which is already having a major impact on the highly productive Mekong Delta in Vietnam – causing it to sink and shrink at an alarming rate. In some parts of the Mekong houses are falling into the river due to river bank erosion. They also impact large species like critically endangered Irrawaddy dolphins and giant catfish.
Dams are also challenging to manage for under-resourced Governments like in Laos. And anticipating and planning for flash flood events like this one are extremely difficult. Climate change and deforestation are also increasing the impacts of dams, magnifying them and making events like the Attapeu collapse even worse.
As the multiple risks associated with hydropower become more evident, not only here in the Greater Mekong, but around the world, other options exist to meet the growing need for electricity and revenue generation in Laos and neighbouring countries. Specifically, solar is becoming much more competitive, is much less capital intensive and can be implemented in a much shorter time with far fewer externalities and risks. Tropical countries in this region, like Laos, Cambodia, and Thailand, have high potential to develop solar. Hydropower should be a last resort once less expensive, less disruptive, less dangerous and more technologically advanced options are ruled out.
For further information: Lee Poston, mobile: +66 918 832 290 firstname.lastname@example.org, Website: www.panda.org/greatermekong
About WWF Greater Mekong: The Greater Mekong is home to some of the planet’s most endangered wild species, including the tiger, saola, Asian elephant, Mekong dolphin and Mekong giant catfish. More than 2,500 new species of plants, birds, mammals, fish, amphibians and reptiles have been discovered in the Greater Mekong since 1997. WWF-Greater Mekong works on conservation initiatives through country programmes in Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam. WWF-Greater Mekong’s mission is a future where humans live in harmony with nature. To learn more about WWF’s activities, please visit us at www.panda.org/greatermekong