Chinese activities in the Mekong River basin, particularly mineral resource and hydropower projects, have had a negative impact on the region’s environment, according to a new “blue book” published by the Social Sciences Academic Press (China).
The report says Chinese mining projects are dumping waste that is damaging to the environment, while the hydropower project the nation is working on with Myanmar and Laos has raised concerns over water flows and fish habitats.
China is one of the main financiers of Laos’ controversial Xayaburi Dam. The mega-dam has been a source of tension in the region because it has not received approval from all downstream countries. It will be the first of many planned dams along the main stem of the Lower Mekong River; these projects are raising concerns about livelihoods of people living in the river delta.
The report calls on the Chinese government to improve legislation that regulates overseas projects, and for better international cooperation to improve environmental protection in the region.
It says that as a result of public concerns and strong opposition from NGOs, many of the region’s countries have established more stringent laws regarding future cooperation with China in these sectors. China can improve relations by drafting stricter laws to evaluate corporate behavior and overseas investments.
It also urges Chinese financial institutions to consider policies that make environmental protection a high priority in their investment decisions, and recommends better overall cooperation in the region in assessing environmental impacts before approving potentially risky projects.
China is not the only upstream Mekong country whose mining and hydropower activities are creating problems downstream.
In July, OOSKAnews cited reports from environmental NGO International Rivers that Laos had begun preparatory work on the Don Sahong Dam, its second on the main stem of the Mekong River, without consultation or approval from its downstream neighbors.
Laos is required to hold prior consultations with the Mekong River Commission, as required under the 1995 Mekong Agreement, before beginning work on project along the river, the group said.