Danube

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?

References

Loucks, D.P et al. (2005). Water Resources Systems Planning and Management. UNESCO Publication. (The book is publicly available on the UNESCO website).