Archive for ‘Xayaburi Dam’

June 27, 2014

Laos to Hear Out Mekong Neighbors on Hydro Project

Don Sahong dam runs into trouble

Click on the link to get more news and video from original source: http://www.bangkokpost.com/news/local/417416/don-sahong-dam-runs-into-trouble

Thailand will reaffirm at the Mekong River Commission (MRC) meeting today that Laos’ Don Sahong hydro-power dam project must undergo a consultation process of member states before Vientiane can move ahead with its construction.

Chote Trachoo, permanent secretary of the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, who heads the Thai team at the meeting, said Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia are concerned the dam could have an adverse ecological impact on the Mekong River.

A transboundary impact assessment of the river and its surrounding environment will be needed before Laos can start the project, he said.

Don Sahong dam is Laos’ second planned hydro-power dam project after the controversial Xayaburi dam on the Mekong River which borders the four countries.

Laos last year signalled its intention to develop the Don Sahong hydro-power dam project in the Siphandone area in the southern part of the country through the MRC’s ordinary notification process, arguing the project will be built on one of the river tributaries and not on the main river itself.

However, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand disagreed with it, saying the project should undergo a more extensive “prior consultation process” by member states of the MRC, as the potential for impacts was significant.

An agreement could not be reached by the four countries and the issue has been left for the MRC council to decide.

Speculation is rife that a decision might be made at the MRC ministerial meeting in Bangkok today.

The 260 mega-watt Don Sahong dam project is about two times the size of Pak Moon dam in Thailand.

Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam are concerned the dam will block fish migration in the Mekong River, which is an important natural habitat for a large number of fish.

Some environmentalists said that the dam, if built, will destroy the ecological system of the Mekong River.

Pianporn Deetes, of the International Rivers group, said the MRC must protect the Mekong River’s conservation by considering the impacts which the dam will have on the river.

Any decision must be made based on a clear study on transboundary impacts and the people’s participation.

Meanwhile, Save the Mekong Coalition yesterday said immediate action should be taken to cancel construction of Xayaburi and Don Sahong dams.

Construction of Xayaburi dam is already underway.

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Laos to Hear Out Mekong Neighbors on Hydro Project

By Steve Herman

June 26, 2014 2:38 PM

Click on the link to get more news and video from original source: http://www.voanews.com/content/article/1945700.html

Laos has informed members of the Mekong River Commission (MRC) that it intends to move ahead with construction of the 260-megawatt Don Sahong dam but consider project modifications based on concerns of neighboring countries.

In a change of stance, Lao government officials recently said they will cooperate with the MRC and development partners before advancing the large and controversial project.

Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia have raised concerns about the environmental impact of the project.

Laos previously insisted the hydroelectric dam’s placement — on a braid of the Mekong and not on the mainstream — meant the project proposal needn’t comply with the commission’s formal prior-consultation process.

MRC Chief Executive Officer Hans Guttman told reporters his secretariat will facilitate the process, but that Laos could simply ignore objections because “there is no formal democratic process.”

“It does allow for a more formal consideration of the potential consequences and allows the Lao government then to take that in consideration if that would be the case,” he said. “But the process in itself does not necessarily say that we vote on the issue in the end.”

Chote Trachu, Thailand’s permanent secretary at the Ministry of Natural Resources, says his government appreciates Laos’s shift to more inclusive consultation process.

The International Rivers non-governmental organization calls the change “an opportunity for neighboring countries to have a voice in whether or not the project is built.” But in the meantime, the group says, Laos “should stop all construction at the site of the Don Sahong dam” so a true project assessment can be conducted.

Many environmental groups contend the hydroelectric project would destroy the river’s ecological system by blocking migration of fish.

Laos says it will continue work already started to improve channels in the project area to aid fish migration.

There is also substantial concern about the construction already progressing on another Mekong dam in Laos: The Xayaburi dam, financed by commercial banks in Thailand, is intended to produce about 1,300 megawatts of electricity, nearly all of it to be purchased by the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT).

Last week, a consortium of conservation groups, including the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF), sent a letter to the junta which now holds all executive and legislative power in Thailand asking for it to suspend or cancel the power purchase agreement for the dam.

The appeal calls the project “one of the potentially most damaging dams currently under construction anywhere in the world,” and one that “constitutes the greatest trans-boundary threat to date [regarding] food security, sustainable development and regional cooperation in the lower Mekong River basin.”

Cambodia and Vietnam have also objected to the Xayaburi project.

Thailand’s Supreme Administrative Court this week agreed to consider a lawsuit against the dam’s power purchase agreement.

International Rivers on Thursday hailed the court’s move as “a clear indication of the adverse trans-boundary impact the Xayaburi Dam is likely to have on the Mekong River’s ecosystem and people, despite earlier claims made by the Lao government that the project would be sustainable.”

The Mekong is the longest river in Southeast Asia, originating in the mountains of Qinghai province in China.

The lower Mekong basin supports nearly 60 million people. The river’s fish are an important source of protein consumed by that population. And the sediment and nutrients at the river’s mouth are critical for Vietnam’s productivity in the delta.

There are plans to construct a total of 12 hydro-power projects on the lower sections of the Mekong’s mainstream. Proponents say the projects are critical for economic development in the booming region and will help alleviate poverty.

 

A veteran journalist, Steven L Herman is the Voice of America Asia correspondent.
June 25, 2014

Save the Mekong Coalition Calls on Prime Ministers to Cancel Mekong Mainstream Dams

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

Wednesday June 25, 2014

Save the Mekong Coalition Calls on Prime Ministers to Cancel Mekong Mainstream Dams:

Protect Food Security and People from Transboundary Impacts

Bangkok, Thailand - As Mekong ministers meet for the 20th Meeting of the Mekong River Commission Council in Bangkok tomorrow, the Save the Mekong coalition has issued a statement calling upon the Prime Ministers of Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand and Vietnam to work together to address the threat posed by a proposed cascade of eleven Mekong mainstream dams to the region’s food security and people. The coalition requests that immediate action be taken to cancel the planned mainstream dams, including the Xayaburi and Don Sahong dams, which are already under construction. And to ensure that future decisions over the shared river are based on scientific knowledge, transboundary impact assessment, robust consultations, and respect for the rights of all riparian nations and the public to a transparent and participatory decision-making process.

“The Mekong mainstream dams are gambling with our food security, by irreversibly harming vital fish migrations and blocking sediment needed for our floodplains,” said Youk Senglong from the Fisheries Action Coalition Team in Cambodia. “It’s time the Mekong leaders recognize the gravity of the situation and take action. Hundreds of thousands of people in the region and internationally have been demanding the dams to be cancelled through petitions, letters and protests.”

“The Cambodian and Vietnamese governments have repeatedly demanded that the Mekong mainstream dams’ transboundary impacts are studied and that decisions over the mainstream dams are deferred ten years,” said Nguy Thi Khanh from GreenID and the Vietnam River Network. “Yet, Laos has continued to unilaterally push forward with the Xayaburi and Don Sahong dams, without adequate knowledge of the risks and a meaningful consultation process. At the same time Thailand’s companies and banks are profiting at the expense of regional cooperation and millions of people in the region who depend on the Mekong River for their food and livelihood.”

At Thursday’s meeting, the Mekong River Commission (MRC)’s Council is scheduled to make a decision whether the Don Sahong Dam in Lao PDR must undergo prior consultation as requested by Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam, after failing to reach agreement during a MRC’s Special Joint Committee Meeting in January. As the second Mekong mainstream dam, the Don Sahong Dam, is already following the dangerous precedent set by the Xayaburi Dam, in which project construction began while MRC deliberations were underway and unilateral action has triumphed over regional interest. Furthermore in both projects transboundary impact assessments have been absent, unproven technologies are being proposed as mitigation solutions, and attempts to follow the MRC’s procedures have exposed significant ambiguities and problems.

“Its clear the MRC has failed to guarantee a balanced and fair decision-making process, in which upstream and downstream considerations are considered.  It’s a broken process in desperate need of reform, during a time when the Mekong River’s health and productivity is at stake,” said Tek Vannara from NGO Forum on Cambodia. “Decisions over the future of the Mekong River cannot continue to be made on a project-by-project basis without consideration of the cumulative transboundary impacts or the opinion of the millions of riparian people who rely upon the river.”

“It’s time to cancel the Mekong mainstream dams and protect the river for present and future generations.  Thailand doesn’t need electricity from destructive dams that will undermine our development,” said Terrapong Pomun of Living River Siam in Thailand. “We urge the Lao government to immediately stop all construction of the Xayaburi and Don Sahong projects, for Thailand to cancel the Xayaburi Dam’s power purchase agreement, and for the riparian rights of neighboring countries and all peoples dependent on the river to be respected. As a first step towards improved Mekong cooperation, the Don Sahong Dam must undergo prior consultation.”

Download the Save the Mekong statement in English, Thai, Lao, Khmer and Vietnamese

Media Contacts:

In Cambodia:

In Thailand:

In Vietnam:

  • Mrs. Nguy Thi Khanh – Director, Green Innovation and Development Center (GreenID) – Policy Advocacy Coordinator – Vietnam River Network (VRN), E: khanhgreenid@gmail.com, T: +84 912713229.
  • Ms. Lam Thi Thu Suu, Director, Centre for Social Research and Development (CSRD), Coordinator-Vietnam River Network (VRN), E: csrd.hue@gmail.com, T: +84 543837714.

Regional/International:

For more information about the Save the Mekong coalition visit: www.savethemekong.org

June 25, 2014

Thai court agrees to hear case against Laos dam

Thai court agrees to hear case against Laos dam

More study ordered on environmental impact

<p>A fisherman checks his nets on the Mekong River in Siphandone, southern Laos (picture by International Rivers)</p>

A fisherman checks his nets on the Mekong River in Siphandone, southern Laos (picture by International Rivers)

Stephen Steele
Bangkok, Thailand  | June 24, 2014
Click on the link to get more news and video from original source:  http://www.ucanews.com/news/thai-court-agrees-to-hear-case-against-laos-dam/71246
The Supreme Administrative Court of Thailand said today it will accept a lawsuit against the Xayaburi dam in Laos, ruling that further study was needed to examine the project’s potential environmental impact.
The court also dismissed a component of the lawsuit that sought to cancel a purchasing agreement between the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT) and the dam’s operators. EGAT is set to buy 95 percent of the power generated by the dam.
But the court said that EGAT had failed to properly notify the public about the transaction and cited the lack of an adequate environmental impact assessment as the reason for allowing the lawsuit to move forward. The omissions were a violation of the Thai Constitution, the court ruled in its 29-page decision.
The Xayaburi dam would be the first dam to be built along the lower Mekong River.
A group of about 40 Thai famers and fishermen from the Mekong region, who were plaintiffs in the case, were jubilant as they left the courtroom, but said more work was needed in their struggle to halt constrction of the dam.
“We have to stop this dam. If it continues, our livelihoods will be destroyed,” said Nichol Poljan, a rice farmer from Bung Khka district in northeastern Bueng Kan province.
Poljan told ucanews.com that he wants his village to avoid a similar experience of those affected by the Pak Mun dam in Ubon Ratchatani province. Fish stocks decreased by about 80 percent after that dam’s completion in 1994.
“It’s not a victory, but it’s giving us hope. We’re grateful that the court has given us a chance to make our case,” said Saranarat Oy Kanjanavanit, secretary general of the Green World Foundation, a Thai environmental organization.
Kanjanavanit said the dam would have a “devastating, far reaching impact” on millions of people who depend on the Mekong River for their survival throughout Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam.
Among the potential environmental catastrophes, the dam’s plans do not provide adequate pathways for migrating fish, Kanjanavanit said. In Cambodia, for example, eight of 10 fish species lay eggs in the flood plains of the Tonle Sap, Southeast Asia’s largest freshwater body of water.
“If the Tonle Sap doesn’t flood, the fish can’t lay eggs,” she told ucanews.com.
More than 600 species of fish are threatened, she added. Cambodia and Vietnam have also raised concerns about the Xayaburi dam and its impact on the region.
In May, the Cambodia Senate sent a letter to Mekong leaders calling on Thailand to cancel the purchasing agreement with the dam’s operators.
The letter said that the Xayaburi dam “constitutes the greatest trans-boundary threat to date to food security, sustainable development and regional cooperation in the lower Mekong River”.
Ame Trandem, Southeast Asia Program Director for International Rivers, said: “It’s clear that the signing of [the] Xayaburi Dam’s power purchase agreement most likely violated the constitutional rights of Thai people, as well as the prior consultation procedures of the 1995 Mekong Agreement, as no trans-boundary impact assessment was carried out nor was them adequate consultation.”
“We hope that the court will now suspend the power purchase agreement and call for a halt to the dam’s construction, in order for the environmental and health impact assessments to be carried out,” she said. “Thai banks should also cancel any further loans to the project, as the lawsuit clearly makes further investment questionable and opens them up to great reputational risk.”

Related reports

June 11, 2014

Fish passage testing underway at Xayaboury dam (เขื่อนไซยะบุรี)

ข่าว เวียงจันไทมส์วันนี้ครับ “กำลังทดสอบทางปลาผ่านเขื่อนไซยะบุรี” เนื้อหาว่าบริษัทกำลังศึกษา “ความสามารถในการว่ายน้ำของปลาเพื่อประเมินประสิทธิภาพของทางปลาผ่าน” สำหรับเขื่อนไซยะบุรี

เมื่อวันจันทร์รมต.ช่วยฯ กระทรวงพลังงานและเหมืองแร่ลาว ได้ลงพื้นที่ โดบบริษัทพอยรี่ ซึ่งรับผิดชอบส่วนงานสิ่งแวดล้อม ได้ว่าจ้าง Fishtek Consulting จากอังกฤษ เพื่อให้ศึกษาว่าปลาแม่น้ำโขงจะสามารถใช้ทางปลาผ่านได้หรือไม่ นาย Tobias Coe ผอ.ด้านเทคนิคกล่าวว่า “หมายความว่าเราไม่ได้ใช้หลักการทั่วๆ ไปในการออกแบบทางปลาผ่าน..ทางปลาผ่านนี้จะถูกออกแบบเพื่อสายพันธุ์ปลาซึ่งพบในแม่น้ำโขง” หนึ่งในแนวทางคือ “บันไดปลาโจน” (เวร!!)

เขื่อนไซยะบุรีกำหนดที่จะผลิตไฟฟ้าส่งขายกฟผ. ในปี 2019 นี้แล้วครับ เพิ่งจะมาศึกษาเอาตอนนี้อ่ะนะ

ผู้เชี่ยวชาญจากยุโรป เขาจะรู้จักปลาน้ำโขงจริงๆ มั้ยครับ? เขื่อนของท่านกำลังจะทุบหม้อข้าวคนหลายสิบล้านคนที่พึ่งพาปลา+การประมงใน ลุ่มน้ำนะครับ

เพลียกับระบบ “สร้างไป ศึกษาไป” เวรกรรมของปลาน้ำโขง 1,200 ชนิด และลูกหลานแม่น้ำโขงจริงๆ

Fish passage testing underway at Xayaboury dam
http://www.vientianetimes.org.la/FreeContent/freeCont_Fish%20passage.htm

Graphic from NOAA Fisheries

Fish passage_n

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Fish passage testing underway at Xayaboury dam

Click on the link to get more news and video from original source: http://www.vientianetimes.org.la/FreeContent/freeCont_Fish%20passage.htm

Xayaboury Power Co Ltd is currently studying fish swimming ability to evaluate the effectiveness of a demonstration fish passage facility at the Xayaboury hydropower project in northern Laos.

Deputy Minister of Energy and Mines Mr Viraphonh Viravong visited the site on Monday, accompanied by officials and members of the media.

Engineering consultancy firm Poyry Energy was hired to work on the project. Poyry Energy then contracted Fishtek Consulting to evaluate whether Mekong fish would be able to use a fish pass at the run-of-river Xayaboury hydropower dam.

Fishtek is a specialised international fishery consultancy based in Devon, UK. They are a leading British consultancy in evaluating the interaction between hydropower projects and fish.

Fishtek Consulting’ technical director Mr Tobias Coe said the fish pass design was based on the best practice principles of taking the swimming abilities of fish into consideration when designing fish pass systems, tailoring them to specific species.

“What that means is we are not taking generic principles of fish pass design . . . this fish pass will be designed for the species that are present in the river Mekong,” Mr Coe said.

He said different tests were underway in the stream looking into the behaviour of the key fish species at different water velocities and how they react to obstructions, as well as the pure physiology of the fish and their swimming capabilities.

In response to concerns raised by Mekong Commission Committee stakeholders and experts, the initial design of the Xayaboury scheme was modified to incorporate sustainable solutions for local Mekong fish populations to pass through the hydropower dam.

One approach is a land-based “fish ladder” that goes around the barrage at an appropriate gradient or slope.

Fish swimming ability tests began in May this year and are ongoing. They will allow scientists to understand the behaviour of fish species and allow for the optimum design of the structures to allow all key fish species to pass through the hydropower dam.

The current fish pass design proposes four vertical slots of different sizes controlling the water flow between pools 20 metres wide and 8 metres long. Fish have to burst-swim through the slots before traveling the pool upstream to the next set of slots.

An experimental facility with a 24 metres long flume has been built at the construction site to investigate the specific swimming abilities of different species of fish.

Three different experimental techniques are being applied to ‘lead’ species including Pa Pak Ta Leuang (Hypsibarbus Pierrei), Pa Tep (Paralaubuca Typus), Pa Dok Ngieu (Cycloheilichthys Repasson), Pa Nyon Nuat (Clupisoma Sinense), Pa Soi Hua Po (Henicorhynchus Siamensis) and Pa Nyon Thong Kom (Pseudolais Pleurotaenia).

The tests being performed include the velocity barrier test, the burst swimming test and the ‘umax’ method. Tests will be completed in the next few weeks and conclusions about the design will then be made.

Interim conclusions confirm that a design velocity of about 1.2 metres per second can be used in the main slots of the fish pass. At this speed most of the fish species require several attempts to enter the flume during the velocity barrier tests. Construction of the US$3.5-billion 1,285 MW Xayaboury hydropower plant began at the end of 2012 and is now 30 percent complete.

Commercial operation is slated to begin in 2019. The dam’s operational phase covers 29 years of the concession agreement from 2019 to 2048, before ownership is transferred to the Lao government.

By Times Reporters
(
Latest Update June 11, 2014)

May 8, 2014

Why We Shouldn’t Dam the World’s Most Productive River – ทำไมเราถึงไม่ควรสร้างเขื่อนในแม่น้ำโขง

 

Why We Shouldn’t Dam the World’s Most Productive River

Saving the Mekong’s giant fish

Click on the link to get more news and video from original source:  http://environment.nationalgeographic.com/environment/freshwater/lessons-from-the-field-mekong-giant-fish/

 

A Mekong giant catfish on the Tonl$#233; Sap River, Cambodia.

A Mekong giant catfish on the Tonlé Sap River, Cambodia.

ABOUT LESSONS FROM THE FIELD: National Geographic is inviting scientists, community leaders, water managers, conservationists, and activists to share the lessons they’ve earned from the field—and the innovative solutions they’ve found. We hope their stories will build a shared sense of community and motivate the public across the world to conserve freshwater and the diversity of life it sustains. Read all of their stories.

Photograph by Zeb Hogan, National Geographic grantee

Read morehttp://dtphorum.com/pr4/showthread.php?3789-T%E1%BB%99i-Nghi%E1%BB%87p-%C4%90%E1%BB%9Di-Sau&p=128615

Dams spell Doom (talkvietnam):  http://www.talkvietnam.com/2012/10/dams-spell-doom/#.U2OsvPldUpo

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By Zeb Hogan

Assistant Research Professor, University of Nevada

It’s unclear why so many species of giant fish occur in the Mekong River, the 2,700-mile (4,350-kilometer) river that runs from southern China to the delta south of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Certainly part of the answer is the river’s size: Large rivers have more space and more food to accommodate larger fish.

Another part of the answer may lie in the productivity of the Mekong River Basin ecosystem, including the floodplains and flooded forests that provide an abundant source of food for many species of fish during the rainy season.

The Mekong River is also—depending on whom you ask—either the second or third most biodiverse river on Earth (in terms of freshwater fish) and it’s logical that a river with so many species of fish would also support several species of giants.

Not only is the diversity of large fishes found in the Mekong amazing, so is these fishes’ persistence, given the number of people who live on the river and the level of fisheries’ exploitation. It just goes to show that fish populations can be remarkably resilient: It’s not typically overfishing that drives species to extinction. Usually, it’s habitat degradation or invasive species.

In this sense, the Mekong River is still a relatively healthy, natural, free-flowing river—a river that, in large part due to the fact that most habitats and connections between habitats are still intact—is still capable of producing 2,500,000 million tons of fish a year. That makes it the most productive river in the world.

Given that the Mekong does produce so much fish, it’s not unreasonable to question whether the benefits of proposed dam projects will outweigh the environmental costs. It’s a question that needs to be answered (and will require more study) before construction of the dams moves forward.

The hydropower dam planned on the Mekong River in Sayabouly Province, northern Laos, is a threat to the survival of the wild population of Mekong giant catfish. Under threat are the suspected spawning locations for many species of fish. The Sayabouly dam is the first lower Mekong River mainstream dam to enter a critical stage of assessment before construction is approved by the Mekong River Commission, which includes representatives from Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam, according to a recent World Wildlife Fund (WWF) report on the ecological implications of new dam projects.

The other dam closest to being approved is the Sahong. The Sahong channel is the most important migratory pathway in Southern Laos.

WWF is absolutely correct to suspect that mainstream Mekong dams will have deleterious effects on the giant fish of the Mekong. Almost all of the information that we have about these species (e.g. the Mekong giant catfish is highly migratory, endemic to the Mekong, seems to need specific cues to spawn, cannot reproduce in reservoirs, and probably spawns in northern Thailand and in Laos), suggests that the Sayabory dam and other Mekong dams will have serious negative impacts.

The same is true of other species of Mekong giants: We know very little about the ecology of these species and what we do know suggests that they need healthy, free-flowing rivers to survive.

Without further study, it’s highly likely that mainstream dams will drive at least one, if not all, of these species to extinction. We’ve seen something similar happen on the Yangtze where the two largest species in that river are now in grave danger  after dam construction (one, the Chinese paddlefish, may already be extinct).

Beyond dams, the other threats to the Mekong’s megafish include over-harvest (which has already brought populations of giant Mekong species to very low levels), habitat degradation (such as dredging and blasting upstream of the only known spawning ground of Mekong giant catfish), and invasive species.

One of the largest fish in the world, the Mekong giant catfish can reach 10 feet (3 meters) long and weigh up to 650 pounds (300 kilograms). This critically endangered species has suffered from all of the above—overfishing, dam building, and habitat destruction.

The risk of losing these fish before we understand them—and the threats they face—cannot be overstated.

Up to 80 percent of Mekong giant fish are at risk of extinction.

Several large-bodied catfish of the Mekong are migratory.

Mekong giant catfish, “dog-eating” catfish, and giant barb (Catlocarpio siamensis) are extremely rare, with only 5-10 adult fish caught per year.

Mitigation

There are several actions that would help ensure the survival of the giant fish species of the Mekong, including:

•    Maintenance of connectivity between rearing grounds and spawning habitat: Many species of Mekong fish have complex life cycles that involve long-distance migrations. Maintenance of migratory pathways is crucial.

•    Management of the river for environmental flows: Both the fish and the fisherfolk of the Mekong rely on the natural dry season, rainy season cycle. Flows often cue fish to migrate or spawn and the high flows of the rainy season open up vast habitats for feeding fish. Likewise, local people have invented all manner of ingenious ways of catching fish and most of these methods are adapted to a specific site, flow, and time of year.

•    Regulation and monitoring of harvest: Over-harvest is a serious threat to the Mekong’s largest, longest-lived, and most vulnerable species. In areas with heavy fishing pressure (and that includes virtually the entire Mekong Basin), catch of the largest fish must be regulated to ensure their survival. Lessons from other parts of the world indicate that relatively slow-growing large-bodied fish cannot sustain heavy fishing pressure indefinitely.

•    Research and decision-making based on research: This may seem like standard scientist-speak, but research on the ecology and conservation status of giant fish is urgently needed in the Mekong River Basin. The “dog-eating” catfish (Pangasius sanitwongsei) is a case in point. We know almost nothing about its ecology or conservation status and yet it is undoubtedly one of the largest, most rare, and most vulnerable fish in all of Southeast Asia. It’s likely that at least a hundred times more research is being done on salmon in the Pacific Northwest of the United States than on fish in the Mekong, but the consequences of losing the Mekong’s fish are a hundred times more significant in terms of biodiversity and potential impact to livelihoods.

Zeb Hogan earned an undergraduate degree in ecology and evolutionary biology from the University of Arizona. He later became a visiting Fulbright student at the Environmental Risk Assessment Program at Thailand’s Chiang Mai University. Returning to the United States, Hogan completed a National Science Foundation-sponsored Ph.D. in ecology at the University of California, Davis. He is currently a fellow at the University of Wisconsin and a World Wildlife Fund fellow. Hogan also leads Megafishes, an effort to protect the world’s largest freshwater fishes, and is a research assistant professor at the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Science at the University of Nevada.

For More Information:

The Megafishes Project

Mekong River Commission

WWF

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ทำไมเราถึงไม่ควรสร้างเขื่อนในแม่น้ำโขง

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ยังไม่มีข้อสรุปแน่ชัดว่าทำไมปลาขนาดใหญ่หลายชนิดปรากฎตัวอยู่ในลำน้ำโขง แม่น้ำขนาดใหญ่ที่มีความยาวราว 4,350 กิโลเมตร ที่ไหลจากตอนใต้ของประเทศจีนไปยังเมืองโฮจิมินฮ์ ประเทศเวียดนาม ซึ่งขนาดของมันนี่เองที่อาจเป็นคำตอบถึงความหลากหลายทางชีวภาพในลำน้ำโขง

อีก ส่วนหนึ่งของคำตอบคือความอุดมสมบูรณ์ของระบบนิเวศลำน้ำโขง ซึ่งรวมไปถึงพื้นที่ราบและพื้นที่ป่าน้ำท่วมถึง ซึ่งเป็นแหล่งอาหารให้กับปลาหลายชนิดในช่วงฤดูน้ำหลาก และข้อความจริงที่ว่า ลำน้ำโขงเป็นแม่น้ำที่มีความหลากหลายสูงที่สุดเป็นอันดับสองหรือสามของโลก เมื่อเปรียบเทียบกับแหล่งน้ำจืด จึงไม่น่าแปลกใจที่จะมีสปีชีส์ปลาขนาดใหญ่อาศัยอยู่เป็นจำนวนมาก
นอกจากความหลากหลายทางชีวภาพที่น่าแปลกใจ แต่ปลาที่พบในแม่น้ำโขงยังทำหน้าที่หล่อเลี้ยงคนจำนวนมากที่ทำอาชีพประมงได้ อย่างดี ในขณะที่จำนวนประชากรของปลาในลำน้ำก็ยังสามารถฟื้นฟูมาจนเพียงพอต่อการประมง ดังนั้นการจับปลาเกินขนาดคงไม่สามารถทำให้สายพันธุ์เหล่านั้นสูญพันธุ์ แต่ภัยคุกคามที่สำคัญคือการทำลายล้างแหล่งที่อยู่อาศัย

ในมุมนี้ ลำน้ำโขงนับว่าเป็นแม่น้ำที่ยังคงสภาพดี มีการไหลค่อนข้างเป็นธรรมชาติ กล่าวคือไม่มีการก่อสร้างสิ่งปลูกสร้างขนาดใหญ่มาขวางกั้นลำน้ำ ดังนั้นพื้นที่อยู่อาศัยของปลาก็ยังมีขนาดใหญ่และสามารถเดินทางขยายพันธุ์ ได้อย่างอิสระ และตัวเลขสถิติการจับปลาปีละกว่า 2,500,000 ล้านตันต่อปี ก็สะท้อนได้อย่างดีว่าลำน้ำนี้คือลำน้ำที่มีผลผลิตมากที่สุดของโลก

จาก ศักยภาพในการผลิตปลาจำนวนมากนี้เอง คำถามที่ว่าประโยชน์ที่ได้จากการก่อสร้างเขื่อนนั้น จะคุ้มค่ากับต้นทุนทางธรรมชาติที่เสียไปหรือไม่ ก็เป็นคำถามที่จะต้องตอบและศึกษาเพิ่มเติม ก่อนจะเดินหน้าสร้างเขื่อน

เขื่อน ไฟฟ้าพลังงานน้ำที่จะก่อสร้างในจังหวัดไซยะบุรี ทางตอนเหนือของลาว นับเป็นภัยคุกคามอย่างใหญ่หลวงต่อประชากรปลาขนาดใหญ่ในแม่โขง เนื่องจากการก่อสร้างเขื่อนจะไปทำลายแหล่งที่อยู่อาศัยตามธรรมชาติของปลา หลายชนิด และเขื่อนไซยะบุรี ยังเป็นเขื่อนแรกในลุ่มน้ำโขงตอนล่างที่มีการก่อสร้างเดินหน้าไปอย่างต่อ เนื่อง ในขณะที่กรรมการลุ่มน้ำโขง ซึ่งประกอบด้วยประเทศไทย ลาว กัมพูชา และเวียดนาม ยังไม่ได้ให้การรับรอง

นอกจากเขื่อนไซยะบุรี ก็ยังมีอีกเขื่อนหนึ่งที่จะก่อสร้างในลำน้ำดอนสะโฮง ลำน้ำสายย่อยที่เป็นช่องทางสำคัญที่สุดของปลาอพยพทางตอนใต้ของประเทศลาว

กอง ทุนสัตว์ป่าสากลหรือ WWF มองว่าการก่อสร้างเขื่อนดังกล่าวจะส่งผลกระทบอย่างร้ายแรงต่อพันธุ์ปลาขนาด ใหญ่ในลำน้ำโขง และจากข้อมูลทั้งหมดที่เรามีเกี่ยวกับสายพันธุ์ปลาขนาดใหญ่อย่างปลาบึก (Mekong Giant Catfish) ซึ่งเป็นสายพันธุ์ปลาอพยพ มีพบเฉพาะในลำน้ำโขง และดูเหมือนว่าจำเป็นต้องใช้พื้นที่เฉพาะในการขยายพันธุ์ ไม่สามารถแพร่พันธุ์ได้ในอ่างเก็บน้ำ การก่อสร้างเขื่อนกั้นลำน้ำโขงสายหลักย่อมส่งผลร้ายต่อสายพันธุ์ปลาดังกล่าว

ข้อ ความจริงดังกล่าวก็เช่นเดียวกับปลาขนาดใหญ่สายพันธุ์อื่นในแม่โขง ที่เรารู้ข้อมูลเกี่ยวกับระบบนิเวศของสปีชีส์เหล่านี้ค่อนข้างน้อย แต่สิ่งเดียวที่เราคาดว่าปลาเหล่านี้ต้องการคือสายน้ำที่ไม่ถูกกักกั้นและ ไหลตามธรรมชาติ

การก่อสร้างเขื่อนขนาดใหญ่ อย่างน้อยต้องส่งผลกระทบให้บางสปีชีส์ต้องสูญพันธุ์ เช่นเดียวกับกรณีตัวอย่างการสร้างเขื่อนในแม่น้ำแยงซีเกียง ที่หลังการก่อสร้าง ทำให้สายพันธุ์ปลาขนาดใหญ่สองสายพันธุ์ต้องเสี่ยงต่อการสูญพันธุ์

นอก จากภัยคุกคามจากการก่อสร้างเขื่อนแล้ว ปลาขนาดใหญ่ในลำน้ำโขงยังต้องพบภัยคุกคามอีกหลายอย่าง จนกว่าร้อยละ 80 ของสปีชีส์ปลาขนาดใหญ่พบกับความเสี่ยงต่อการสูญพันธุ์

จะดีกว่าไหม ถ้าเราหันมาศึกษาเรียนรู้พวกเขา ก่อนจะก่อสร้างโครงการขนาดใหญ่ ?

แนวทางการลดผลกระทบ
- สร้างเส้นทางเชื่อมต่อระหว่างที่อยู่อาศัยและพื้นที่ขยายพันธุ์ เนื่องจากปลาหลายชนิดในลำน้ำโขงมีลักษณะเป็นปลาอพยพทางไกล การรักษาไว้ซึ่งช่องทางในการอพยพจึงเป็นเรื่องสำคัญ

- การบริหารจัดการให้ปล่อยน้ำตามลักษณะการไหลธรรมชาติ เนื่องจากทั้งปลาและชาวประมงรอบลำน้ำโขง จำเป็นต้องดำรงชีวิตตามฤดูกาลแล้งและฝนตามธรรมชาติ การไหลของน้ำจะสัมพันธ์กับการอพยพของปลาเพื่อขยายพันธุ์ หรือการสร้างพื้นที่น้ำท่วมใหม่เป็นแหล่งอาหารให้กับปลา รวมไปทั้งชาวประมงในพื้นที่ที่คิดค้นวิธีการจับปลาที่สอดคล้องกับธรรมชาติ

- ต้องมีการทำวิจัย เพื่อใช้ข้อมูลในการตัดสินใจ เนื่องจากหลายสายพันธุ์ที่เสี่ยงต่อการสูญพันธุ์เช่น ปลาเทพา (Pangasius sanitwongsei) ที่เราแทบไม่รู้จักการดำเนินชีวิตและระบบนิเวศของมัน ซึ่งปลาดังกล่าวนับเป็นปลาที่ใหญ่ที่สุด หายากที่สุด และมีค่าที่สุดในเอเชียตะวันออกเฉียงใต้ ซึ่งหากเปรียบเทียบแล้ว ในสหรัฐฯมีการทำวิจัยเกี่ยวกับกลาแซลมอนคิดเป็น 100 เท่าของการทำวิจัยปลาในแม่น้ำโขง ทั้งๆที่การสูญเสียสายพันธุ์ปลาในแม่น้ำโขงนั้น จะส่งผลเป็นร้อยเท่าต่อระบบนิเวศและความเป็นอยู่ของคน

บทความโดย Zeb Hogan ผู้ช่วยนักวิจัยมหาวิทยาลัย Nevada (Assistant Research Professor, University of Nevada)
ต้นฉบับจาก Why We Shouldn’t Dam the World’s Most Productive River’
http://environment.nationalgeographic.com/environment/freshwater/lessons-from-the-field-mekong-giant-fish/

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