Kuenzer, C., Campbell, I., Roch, M., Leinenkugel, P., Tuan, V. Q., & Dech, S. (2012). Understanding the impact of hydropower developments in the context of upstream–downstream relations in the Mekong river basin. Sustainability Science, 8(4), 565–584.

This article provided an extensive review of hydropolitics in the Mekong River basin, along with geographical, hydrological, and socio-economic analysis of dam development along the Mekong and its tributaries. 

Most relevant to my own interests, and which relates to previous readings (notably Sneddon and Fox 2012) is the recognition by Kuenzer et al. of the influence of upstream development on downstream regions, either directly or indirectly. The authors discuss this “in the context of impacts on water flow and sediment availability, river-ecology and biodiversity, or in an economic context of navigability, electricity provision and monetary flow, not to mention the impact of hydro- power development on the geopolitical landscape of allies” (568). This aligns with the notion of a transboundary basin being defined through a variety of processes and actors are multiple scales (Sneddon and Fox 2012). The processes mentioned above are essentially those of economic, geopolitical, and environmental dynamics, which create and define a region.

Geopolitics of dam development and its perceived importance for basin development is paramount, especially as many downstream riparians eye Chinese development on the mainsteam of the Mekong. It appears to be a popular scapegoat, to blame water quality and quantity changes on the actions of the Chinese. Yet, as the authors point out, despite local opposition to upstream riparian dam development in many communities, it is often the national governments, companies and interest groups that either support the integration of the electricity grid, and therefore the development of river dams, or are engaged in building and operating dams on their own territory. 

Dam development in the Mekong basin has proceeded at seemingly breakneck speed, despite calls for greater degrees of ecological protection, and rural livelihood security. 

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