February 06, 2005

Give us a dam index!

Most of the recent discussions around the proposed Nam Theun 2 hydroelectric project in Laos have been centered on the income it might generate and how it is to be distributed. These are indeed important issues but we should also to consider whether the project could have a positive environmental impact in as far as it replaces other more contaminating energy sources… regionally. I am no expert in dams but having had the luck of being able to visit and fly over this particular site, I must say it seemed a good site for a dam, when compared to other places. Let my be clear, I am absolutely not an expert on these issues, not even an engineer, but sometimes I trust more my layman eyes than those experts who are looking through glasses colored by interest.

That said and as an ordinary citizen who just wants to be able to understand, I surely miss the fact that the experts have not been able to develop an index that classifies prospective and existing dams in terms of the harm they can do to environment. With such an index it would be easier for all us to know when we should not waste time fighting against a new project and when we, in compensation, should instead ask for the decommissioning of an old dam. Behaving like green bullies or environment chasers, hindering developing countries from accessing hydro power, just because we can, is not how the world is going to solve its extremely urgent environmental problems.