11/21/2013, 00.00
MYANMAR - LAOS
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Mekong, environmentalists warn: Hunger for energy is destroying ecosystem

After the Xayaburi dam , Vientiane approves Don Sahong power station a source of fresh concerns. The NGO Internatonal Rivers speaks of "lack of transparency" and "serious threat" to the fish and fauna . Many Burmese people at risk, who rely on fish for daily protein needs.

Yangon ( AsiaNews / Agencies) - Environmentalists are launching a new alarm for the Mekong River, from its forests to fish and fauna, increasingly endangered by development projects for energy that do not take into account the delicate eco- system. Fears caused by the Xayaburi mega- plant (for years the center of fierce controversy ) have failed to stop the a new power plant which received the go-ahead from the government of Laos.  It will be built at Don Sahong , along the border with Cambodia . According to NGO International Rivers experts, it constitutes a serious threat to fisheries and the environment throughout the region.  These projects are developed thanks to the support and funding of multinational companies and foreign governments, the first to benefit from the electricity produced by the plant .

Now the danger also directly affects the people of Burma , who are likely to see a huge drop in the quantity of fish that until now have populated the rivers of Myanmar. The dam of Don Sahong could lock "the only access channel" open to fish for migration, in that stretch of the Mekong. The project also would put at risk one of the few remaining "natural pools" for Irrawaddy dolphins , an endangered and protected species.

The Mekong River for a stretch along more than 200 km forms the natural boundary between the Shan State in Myanmar and Laos, an area locally known as the Golden Triangle region . For the experts of International Rivers "more than 22 thousand indigenous people" live in the area and fishing is the basis of their diet. In fact, about 80% of the protein consumed by people living along the Mekong, Salween and Irrawaddy comes from fish that originated in these rivers .

For Ame Trandem , program director for the Southeast Asian American NGO , "the project of Don Sahong , cloaked in so much secrecy that we do not even know who is really funding it, it is reckless and irresponsible." And there is also evidence a "lack of transparency" . The Mekong is in a "very precarious" state and the true extent of the impact caused by these dams and power plants " has yet to be fully understood." Clearly , the experts conclude, "personal interests" are prevailing at the expense of " in-depth studies ."

The Mekong rises on the Tibetan plateau and flows along the Yunnan Province of China, then in Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. About 65 million people live along its course, obtaining support from fishing (estimated to be worth $ 3 billion a year) and fish farmers. But now the river, 4,880 km long and considered the 2nd richest biodiversity in the world, is threatened by many projects of hydroelectric dams. The Mekong River Commission (MRC) has called for a 10-year moratorium on the construction, showing heavy impact on fisheries, with a decrease amounted to 300 thousand tons per year.

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