Mekong Dams Could Be Threat to Cambodia’s Food Security

The construction of two hydroelectric dams proposed for the Mekong River would lead to steep declines in the availability of fish—an essential source of protein for Cambodians—potentially threatening food security, according to a new report by the fisheries administration.

The study by the administration’s Inland Fisheries Research and Development Institute, released Wednesday and conducted in collaboration with the Danish International Development Agency, WWF and Oxfam Australia, found that Cam­bodians depend on fish for nearly a fifth of their total food intake. Fish and other aquatic animals are also the source of more than three-quarters of protein consumed daily.

The findings—from interviews conducted with 1,200 households nationwide—take into account how current dam proposals would affect fish migration and breeding. The report predicts that construction of the Stung Treng dam alone would slash aquatic food yields by between 6 and 24 percent by 2030, while the Sambor dam in Kratie province, with or without the construction of Stung Treng, would reduce yields by 16 to 31 percent.

“Aquaculture will not be able to compensate for the resources that will be lost if these dams are built,” said Chheng Phen, director of the administration’s Research and Development Institution, at a forum to discuss the findings held Wednesday at Phnom Penh’s Sunway Hotel.

“They require land for ponds, capital for construction, and fish-raising technology,” he added, resources which are unlikely to be available to many who rely on fisheries for sustenance.

According to WWF acting country director Michelle Owen government officials were aware of the impacts the dams may have on nutrition, but some of those present stressed that the report was one piece of information among many that had to be considered.

“We haven’t made any decisions yet [on the dams],” said Bit Sochet, a representative from the Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy. “But the purpose of this conference is to discuss food security, not to focus on the construction issue per se.”

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