Impacts of dam developments on human security in the Mekong delta : theoretical and empirical insights
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Roughly 85% of the people in the lower Mekong basin directly depend for their livelihood on the natural resources and the health of the river. The health of the Mekong is connected to the construction of dams, and in total, 131 dams are constructed, 11 in the mainstream, of which the majority in Laos. The Mekong River Commission (MRC) has warned against the impacts of dam development in the river, but their concerns have been ignored. In a 3,600-page report in 2018, they point to the trade-offs between water, energy and food which are impacted by the dams. The potential linkages between dam development, food insecurity and social instability is not addressed in the impact assessments as it falls outside the scope of Environmental Impact Assessments. This thesis aims to address this knowledge gap, and is divided into two parts, theory and the case study. In order to address the knowledge gap, I elaborate a new framework around the concept of human security, and reflect on the usefulness of the new framework to assess and analyse the impacts. Using both qualitative and quantitative data, gathered through interviews in the field and databases, this thesis aims to answer the following objectives: firstly, it aims to develop a comprehensive understanding of the security implications of dam development in the Mekong delta and secondly, this thesis aims to explore how the local impacts on the human security dimensions have possible broader socio-political consequences on both the local and global level. In conclusion, the impacts of upstream dam developments on the environmental and food security dimensions, and the livelihoods is likely to impact the socio-political stability in the country significantly. Small-scale farmers, women and fishermen will be impacted most severely, and increased migration to urban and industrial areas is a likely mitigating strategy. Increased migration, the changes caused by the dams in environmental, food and economic security, provide many of the ingredients necessary for socio-political unrest to occur. The theoretical human security framework developed in this thesis, has contributed in highlighting the political implications of dam development, which the environmental impact assessments were unable to, and provided a more comprehensive understanding of the impacts of upstream dam developments in the Mekong river.