Public Participation and Contested Hydropower Development in the Mekong River Basin


Regional demand for renewable hydropower from the Mekong River and its tributaries in Laos is on the rise. In June 2022, Laos exported one hundred megawatts of hydropower to Singapore via Thailand and Malaysia – a historic milestone that further establishes Laos as the battery of Asia. However, these developments take place amid rising concerns for the ecological future of the transboundary Mekong River and the millions of people who depend on it.

Joining Dr Natali Pearson on SSEAC Stories, Dr Ming Li Yong exposes how further hydropower development on the Mekong River could negatively affect ecosystems, resulting in decreased food security and jeopardising livelihoods in the river basin. She also discusses processes of public consultation and how they fail to consider local communities’ opinions on these contested projects.

About Ming Li Yong:

Ming Li is a Fellow at the East-West Center in Honolulu, Hawai’i. She researches transboundary water governance and hydropower development in the Mekong River Basin. Her research focuses on community-based natural resource management, civil society movements, public participation, and the institutional arrangements that influence the politics of water resources development in the Mekong region. She received her Ph.D. from The University of Sydney and has previously taught courses on environmental ethics, sustainability, and food at the School for Field Studies and Paññāsāstra University of Cambodia, and at the National Institute of Education in Singapore.

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Natali Pearson

Dr Natali Pearson is Curriculum Coordinator at the Sydney Southeast Asia Centre, a university-wide multidisciplinary center at the University of Sydney, Australia. Her research focuses on the protection, management and interpretation of underwater cultural heritage in Southeast Asia.

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