Normally I just post a speech by Martin or put up a tribute of some type. I saw this article in the Bangkok Post and I thought Martin would approve so:
In this very fast-changing region, few countries are changing faster than Laos. With economic growth of around 8%, the country is awakening and Vientiane is bustling with new developments, new trucks, and an even brighter outlook. Laos is finally catching up with its neighbours, and though this will take time, the pace and direction is undeniably clear and strong.
However, beneath this strong economic growth is a challenging story. Numerous rivers are being dammed for power production as Laos pursues its vision to become the “Battery of Asia”, and about 90% of this power is for export to Thailand and Vietnam.
Obviously Laos is not the only country growing in this region, and the demand for electricity is understandably strong. But the “Land of a Million Elephants” is becoming the “Land of 50 Dams” and that affects us all. This is because the dams are on the tributaries and water catchments of the great Mekong River. Indeed, according to the Mekong River Commission, nearly one-third of Thailand is actually in the Mekong River basin. The current dams in the Mekong basin produce around 1,600 megawatts yet the potential is estimated at 30,000 MW. And with around 60 million people depending on the Mekong for food, water, and transport the number of people directly linked to the river is huge _ approximately the same as the population of Thailand itself. And these dams will have an uncertain impact on this important inland fishery.
Electricity is vital for economic growth and it is vitally important for countries to have very reliable sources of high-quality power to drive their economies forward. But not all electricity has to be used in an inefficient way, and by getting serious about energy efficiency, the demand growth can be reduced. And this will mean that fewer dams are needed on the precious Mekong and its basin. Countries such as Thailand and Vietnam getting more strict about energy efficiency will better preserve the region’s key river.
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Edward Allen is a technical programme coordinator at the Lao Institute for Renewable Energy and the technical adviser to Sunlabob Renewal Energy. He holds a BA in Geography from Oxford University, and an MSc and Diploma of Agriculture from Imperial College London (Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development). For more on renewable energy issues, see www.sunlabob.com
Go there and read. More tomorrow.