Manna Gum has a special connection to countries of Laos & Cambodia who sit astride the great Mekong River. The Mekong Region is characterised by rich and strong cultures and superabundant ecological diversity. However, it is a region whose people and ecologies are under enormous stress, as the global economy now competes for the same natural resources – rivers, land and forest – which rural communities have long depended upon.
SAVE THE MEKONG CAMPAIGN
The Mekong River is under threat. The governments of Cambodia, Laos and Thailand are planning eleven big hydropower dams on the Mekong River's mainstream. If built, the dams would block major fish migrations and disrupt this vitally important river, placing at risk millions of people who depend upon the Mekong for their food security and income.
The Mekong River supports one of the world's most productive inland fisheries, which feeds over sixty million people. Official estimates put its value at more than US$3 billion annually. Yet, even this staggering figure understates the true value, as fisheries are also central to peoples' nutrition and food security. Experience around the world points to the fact there is no way of mitigating the impact of such large dams on fisheries.
Manna Gum is a member of the Save the Mekong Coalition, which brings together non-government organizations, local people, academics, journalists, artists and ordinary people from within the Mekong countries and internationally.
Preserving Plenty: The struggle of the people of Sambor
Sambor is a district of Kratie, Cambodia where people have lived for generations off the abundant natural resources of the Mekong – rice from the land, fish from the river, and a wealth of goods and materials from the forest. Sambor means ‘plenty’.
Over the last decade, the people of Sambor, with some help from others, have steadily reduced poverty and improved the quality of life for many. However, the future of these gains is now in doubt.
In 2006 the Cambodian Government signed an agreement with the China Southern Power Grid Company to explore the feasibility of a massive hydropower dam on the Mekong River in Sambor. The proposed dam would export electricity to Vietnam or Thailand. If built, the Sambor Hydropower Dam will force the relocation of 19,000–20,000 people nearly all of whom are small-scale farmers and fishers.
Furthermore, over the last decade Sambor's land and forest areas have been subjected to wide-spread land grabbing by large commercial agribusiness. With all these outside forces competing for the resources upon which they depend, the pressure on the people of Sambor is becoming intense.
Preserving Plenty is a full colour publication detailing the lives of people across three Sambor villages: how life is changing for them, how they are working to improve their lives, their hopes for the future and their fears.
Hidden Costs:The underside of economic transformation
Since the late 1990s, Mekong countries have experience rapid economic growth based upon intensified natural resource exploitation – hydropower, mining, commercial fishing and agribusiness plantations. Much of this ‘economic development’ has been facilitated by international aid, and aid donors are lauding the region’s economic transformation, claiming that it is bringing substantial reduction in poverty.
This report challenges the "success story” narrative of development in the Mekong region by considering rural people's actual experiences of economic change in the "transition" economies of Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. It argues that the livelihoods, culture and environment of too many - especially ethnic minorities - have been seriously compromised by economic change in the Mekong, and that rural communities and the ecosystems that support them, are under immense strain throughout the region.
Related Manna Matters and other articles:
- Who are the poor and what do they really want?
- The non-violent struggle against land-grabbing
- Land & violence in Cambodia
- Australians & Laos (3): Mine the Gap
- Australians & Laos (2): On the GMS bandwagon
- Australians & Laos (1): Where you stand determines what you see