07/29/2010, 00.00
SOUTHEAST ASIA
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Giant Mekong Catfish could disappear

WWF warns that dams planned for the Mekong might endanger important fish species and major fisheries. Governments counter that people need hydroelectric power.
Bangkok (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Dams planned for the Mekong River could wipe out several endangered fish species, destroying associated fisheries, which are the lifeline for most riverine residents, this according to the World Wildlife Found (WWF). The governments of Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and China contend instead that the development of hydroelectric power is essential to meet local energy needs.

The WWF released a report yesterday on the consequences of dam construction on the river. It found that the giant catfish could be finished off if dams are built.

As freshwater fish go, the Mekong giant catfish is among the largest creatures, reaching up to 300 kilograms and 3 metres in length.

At present, it is already critically imperilled by overfishing and development, its stocks down by 90 per cent.

The giant catfish is migratory and always spawns in the same place, but dams along the Mekong River might block its journeys up and down the Mekong and make it impossible to replenish the species.

In Cambodia, the dams might result in the loss of almost half its fish stocks and a million fisheries-dependent livelihoods.

The giant freshwater stingray, which can weigh up to 600 kilograms, also inhabits the river.

Still, Cambodian government sources said that the country still needs the dams to provide electricity.

China has already built four dams in the upper Mekong and plans four more within 2025 to generate up to 15,300 megawatts to cover the needs of 75 million people. Another 11 dams are planned in Laos, Cambodia and Thailand, plus smaller ones along the course of Mekong’s tributaries.

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