The Hidden Cost of Hydropower Dams In the Mekong River Basin: 9 Years of Repeated History of Lack of Governance And Accountability


This study determines to provide an analysis on the hidden costs of hydropower dams and the burdens on local communities, environment and ecosystems of the mainstream Mekong hydropower dams. The analysis starts from the first hydropower dam on the lower Mekong Basin, the Xayaburi Hydropower Dam, that started construction 9 years ago and 3 other dams, namely Don Sahong Hydropower Dam, Pak Beng Hydropower Dam and Pak Lay Hydropower Dam.The Xayaburi Hydropower Dam is expected to officially begin distributing electricity for the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand on 29 October 2019.

The damages inflicted by the Xayaburi Hydropower Dam on local community, the environment and the Mekong River ecosystems are yet clearly calculated. Costs and expenses that the project developers must hold accountable have not been clearly laid out. Many costs are still hidden in the system and all levels of mechanisms, both nationally and regionally, that were supposed to review the process—from planning to construction to operation—with governance and accountability. Overall, the damages arise from the construction of hydropower dams are the opportunity local communities and the ecosystems have lost. Their opportunity loss is often overlooked by the developers when they calculate the costs of hydropower dams.

This study reviews researches and documents related to the following 2 conceptual frameworks:

  1. The costs that local community and the ecosystem have to bear after the completion of the hydropower dams and the accountability of the project developers.
  2. How the costs and impacts of the Xayaburi Hydropower Dam are hidden and pushed away.

Click here to download full report.


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