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Social and Environmental Justice for Communities of the Mekong River

Author(s): Dani J. Barrington | Stephen Dobbs | Daniel I. Loden

Journal: International Journal of Engineering, Social Justice, and Peace
ISSN 1927-9434

Volume: 1;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 31;
Date: 2012;
Original page

Keywords: dams | Mekong | water rights | Engineers Without Borders

During the mid-twentieth century the construction of hydroelectric dams in developing countries became a contentious issue in economic and political arenas. Governments and pro-damming parties, particularly those with a direct commercial interest, often consider the dams to be necessary for economic growth, as well as being in the national interest. Others directly impacted by the altered hydrology and ecology, as well as experts concerned with environmental and demographic impacts, are less sure about the benefits of hydro-electric dams. Concerns about the environmental and human impacts of dams are heightened on a waterway such as the Mekong River, which flows through six sovereign states. When the impacts are to be felt across entire regions, ensuring just outcomes for all the stakeholders is crucial to long-term regional political stability and economic wellbeing. Engineers are pivotal in the design and construction of dams, and engineering teams also play an increasingly important role in assisting communities impacted by the altered hydrology. This article focuses on the community and environmental implications of engineering decisions on the Mekong River, and suggests ways in which engineers involved in dam design and construction can play a role in ensuring that socially and environmentally just outcomes are achieved.
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