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Environmental Forum | Assessment of Sustainable Hydropower Development: Alternatives for the Mekong River Basin

Event Details:

Monday, November 11, 2019
3:30pm - 5:00pm PST


Y2E2 Building, Room 299
United States

The Mekong River Basin in Southeast Asia flows through six countries on its journey from the Tibetan Plateau to the South China Sea. This is where the most intensive hydropower development in the world converges with the most productive freshwater fishery in the world. Yet, decades of deferred development and limited development options make some degree and style of exploitation of the river inevitable. Foregoing or deferring power development is not an option particularly for the Kingdom of Cambodia and the People’s Democratic Republic of Lao, today among the poorest nations in the world. At risk also is the Mekong Delta in Vietnam which may disappear entirely by the end of this century as the upstream dams interrupt the annual replenishment of sediments and nutrients at the same time as the sea level rises. The delta is home to some 20 million people as well as half of the rice and fish cultivation in Vietnam. Its loss would be an ecological catastrophe without precedent.

Please join on November 21 a presentation and discussion of what “sustainable hydropower development” looks like in the face of these realities. We will showcase an assessment of sustainable hydropower alternatives that was undertaken by a team of international experts for and with the governments of Cambodia and Lao PDR. We will consider:

  • an operational definition of sustainable hydropower development;
  • the design of what would be the world’s most fully mitigated major hydropower dam;
  • hydropower siting, design and operational alternatives for maintaining the natural processes of the river;
  • the feasibility of augmenting power from existing reservoirs by integrating into their operation arrays of solar photovoltaic arrays at utility scale, as an alternative to new dam construction; and
  • how the lessons from the Mekong can now be propagated world-wide.

Gregory A. Thomas, J.D., is the founder and CEO of the Natural Heritage Institute, an international non-governmental organization dedicated to restoring and protecting water-dependent ecosystems and the services they provide to sustain and enrich human life. NHI’s vision is to recreate a world where rivers function like rivers again in harmony with human needs. NHI designs and then demonstrates restoration tools and techniques in local settings, usually at a river basin-wide scale, often in a transboundary context.

Greg has worked in the natural resources field for over 40 years as an advocate, professor, chief executive officer and project manager. Greg has practiced natural resources law since 1974, primarily for non-profit conservation organizations. In the 1970's, he played a leading role in the enactment of much of the foundational federal laws in the energy and environmental field. He was a senior staff attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council's international program, and became the managing attorney of its San Francisco office in 1980. He was a Fulbright Professor and advisor to the national environmental ministry of China, and he taught law at UCLA and UC Berkeley. At NHI, he has directed a myriad of projects addressing reoperation of major river basin infrastructure to restore natural processes.

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