Hydropower could threaten the food security of Cambodia

In Cambodia, farmers and anglers depend on the Mekong River's predictable seasonal patterns, but hydroelectricity news dams are altering the hydrology of the river. These changes have ultimate threaten to livelihood, fish migration and regional food security. A new paper from the Lowa state university and the University of Illinois urges a participatory approach for making the Mekong River basin. This engages residents who have the detailed knowledge of the river. This local knowledge, combined with scientific and technical findings. It is essential for developing effective strategies to adapt to the changing uses and flows of the river. 

Kenneth Olson, professor emeritus in the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences at U of I and co-author of the article explains that because for the years of civil years, it destroyed the infrastructure of modernization and half of the Cambodian population has to access to electricity. Hydropower is a complicated building block for required modernization. However, by using the source of water for power presents, its difficult trade for farmers and traders. In this article Olson and co-author Lois Wright Morton detail, the geology and soils of the Mekong River and Tonle Sap Lake and River area explains that it dominates the Cambodian landscape. The Tonle Sap River is a way of the Mekong River, connecting with Tonle Sap Lake northwest of Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia.

Olson explains that the Asian monsoon strongly influences this essential hydrological complex system. At the time of monsoon season, the Tonle Sap Lake surface area enlarges to become four times larger than in the dry season. It holds nine times more water by volume. This surface water level can change by 30 feet, so homes are in floating stilts or villages. 

This change occurs because for the Mekong River starts to flood in May and June and backs up into the Tonle Sap River and Lake. In November, the rain stops and the water level of the Mekong River begin to drop. The Tonle Sap River flow reverses and again becomes a tributary of the Mekong River. 

Olson says the flooding brings required nutrients and sediments for fishing and crops. But the increase of sedimentation has the efficiency by making the shallow lake more shallow over time.  There are planned to build 11 dams on the mainstream of the lower Mekong River.