I remember a poem we learned in primary school
Man tells the Danube I shall block you with steel and concrete So that from heights You fall Swiftly So that trains Go faster So that machines Never stop So that from now on The flow of your water Will no longer be wasted But it will bring Bread, electricity, and coal For my people to use to their hearts' content So that the fields Rumble with tractors and engines So that lights lit up all nights In homes And on the streets
(Translated from Vietnamese to English to the best of my ability. The Vietnamese version, which was in turn translated from Russian, can be found here)
Such was the thinking of the past. Following this paradigm, man has built more than 40 dams and created over 500 reservoirs in the Danube’s catchment. The river is heavily regulated, causing substantial reduction in its floodplains – from 26,000 km² to merely 6000 km² over the last 5 decades, and adverse disturbance in its sediment and nutrient transport. These effects, together with heavy industrial, agricultural and urban activities of 85 million people in the catchment, have raised serious ecological and environmental concerns.
Nowadays, we no longer think that river flow is a waste. The environmental impacts of hydropower production have been recognized. The 13 riparian countries that share the Danube have agreed to manage the river together.
Along the Mekong, however, dams are still sprouting up. Will the Mekong countries come to a peaceful agreement the way the Danubians did?
Loucks, D.P et al. (2005). Water Resources Systems Planning and Management. UNESCO Publication. (The book is publicly available on the UNESCO website).