Understanding the Land Use and Water Systems of the Mekong River; Increasing Hydropower Development in the Mekong River Region and its Effects on the Social Structure

Rowe, Charles, School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia
Lakshmi, Venkataraman, EN-Eng Sys and Environment, University of Virginia
Foley, Rider, EN-Engineering and Society, University of Virginia

The Mekong River region’s long-term social and economic sustainability is being threatened by the growing development of hydropower. It is being threatened due to the unintended impacts on the river itself, surrounding populations, and vital industries, thus ensuring that something needs to change. We are analyzing these unintended impacts through data analysis in hopes of quantifying trends associated with the rapid hydropower development growth. It is important to consider the human and social dimensions of hydropower in the area because the dams’ effects trickle down to the people native to the Mekong Region, the river itself, and therefore all other life dependent on nature's sustainability. We will conduct our research by utilizing data sets and surveys released by certain organizations such as the World Wildlife Fund, the Food and Agriculture Organization, The World Resource Institute, and the International Energy Organization to develop a basis for creating our model.
Before any analysis is conducted, we will aggregate these datasets in order to create an exhaustive resource through which we can easily conduct our research without having to repeatedly pull data from each individual source. In this study, we will segment the analysis into five sectors: hydropower, agriculture, fisheries and aquaculture, general economy, and land use. We will then conduct analyses on each of these sectors in hopes to correlate dam operations and construction with impacts to the Mekong River Basin. Emphasis is placed on summarizing trends prior to the hydropower construction boom of the early 2000’s and comparing them to the trends observed after this increase in regional hydropower activity.

We will use tools such as Excel and Minitab to interpret and study the data sets found. Further, we will analyze surveys, case studies, and policy reports that have been monitoring what the impacts are as a result of hydropower development in the Mekong region. Through our research, we expect to find quantifiable correlations between the increased development of hydropower and the resulting negative impacts on the Mekong’s native inhabitants and the region’s environment itself. The implications with this research and hydropower is that there may be no better alternative for creating energy within the region. So, it is possible that our group concludes that hydropower is the best energy producing option for the Mekong River Region and that without it, the negative consequences would only accelerate. For my STS report, I will delve into micro-level data and focus on how households around hydropower development are being affected on a personal level.

BS (Bachelor of Science)
Mekong, techno-politics, power, Winner

School of Engineering and Applied Sciences

Bachelor of Science in Systems Engineering

Technical Advisor: Venkataraman Lakshmi

STS Advisor: Rider Foley

Technical Team Members: Michael J. Kuchta, Christopher Pufko, Scott Stoessel, Jacob Walsh

Issued Date: