My Piece on Big Dams in Southeast Asia
I’ve published a piece on the Council on Foreign Relations’ Asia blog, Asia Unbound, regarding the problems big dams have been running into in Southeast Asia over the past couple of weeks. I look at three cases in particular: the fighting that has erupted in Burma’s northern Kachin state where Chinese companies are building a series of dams; the admission by Sinohydro, China’s largest dam builder, that the construction procedures it used to build Malaysia’s Bakun Dam (soon to be the largest dam in Asia outside China), were flawed; and Laos’ decision to press ahead with construction its Xayaburi dam in violation of an earlier agreement to suspend it amid concerns by downstream countries.
You can read the full thing here. I reiterate that the point of this article is not to argue that hydropower should be ruled out as an option for countries to pursue – whether it be otherwise poor and landlocked countries like Laos or power-hungry nations like China. But while hydropower is a cleaner, renewable energy source, there is no silver bullet in terms of energy options. Therefore, recognizing the risks of large dams, whether it be tied to political, safety or other trans-boundary issues, is important as countries and companies embark on such projects.