Hydropower Shapes Cooperation and Coordination

Hydropower plant construction near the borders of other countries rarely equates to equal benefits for all the parties involved. The interests and power relationships of various private and public organization with ties to water management shapes the outcome of these transboundary projects. What roles are played by governmental organizations and foreign investors are evaluated for different cases across the Middle-East and Asia.

(De Gruyter) – Water as an energy producing resource can be a difficult political issue to deal with. Particularly when the body of water moves across country boundaries, as is the case with hydropower plant development in the Lower Mekong basin (Mekong River in Laos). Not only Laos, but also countries downstream of this plant, Vietnam and Cambodia, all have an interest in how dam construction for hydropower plants impacts the ecosystems and food production as the river is important for irrigated agriculture. Construction of hydropower plants alters the flow of a river, greatly influencing the ecosystem around it.

Coordination of many groups within a country and across multiple countries are necessary to maximize impact of hydropower policy with as little loss as possible to the environment and people. The authors discuss case examples of the Mekong river basin, the Euphrates-Tigris, and the Çoruh, as well as the mandates created by the River Basin Organizations (RBOs) that are developed for these multinational river basins.

In addition, the authors point out that frequently private sector influence on policy decisions of these hydropower plant projects is a reality that must be taken into account. In the case of the Lower Mekong basin power plant, Laos held bilateral negotiations while leaving the RBO, known as the Mekong River Commission (MRC), out of the discussions. The Lao government, Vietnam, and Cambodia listened to private parties and policy was greatly influenced by foreign interests.

A well designed policy is important for determining the best approach of transboundary projects and the authors make a number of suggestions to optimize the benefit to all sectors including the environmental and local impact of design while also taking care to note the impact of foreign interests on the policies direction.

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The original full article can be found at De Gruyter here.
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/cass-2015-0010
Change and Adaptation in Socio-Ecological Systems. 2015, 2 (1),  85-87.

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