Forest | Flooding | Physical Changes | Lost of Species | Climate | Disease
With any development project, environmental impacts are crucial factors to consider before taking any major steps towards action. This is especially true with projects concerning large hydropower development projects, as they can have many adverse affects on the surrounding and wider environments.
The impacts often lead to a chain of events affecting people, plant and animal species, whole ecosystems, economies, and the livelihoods of thousands. The relationship between all living organisms and their systems is a delicate balance. When it is disrupted it can cause havoc, leading to serious and sometimes permanent damage.
An un-dammed river is dynamic, always changing and comprised of many different ecological niches (specific place or role an organism has in its ecosystem). Ecosystems and cultures are dependent on this dynamism. Developments on the Salween River, including hydropower and water diversion projects will destroy the delicate balance between the river and its watershed, a relationship, which may have taken many thousands of years to evolve. The majority of the effects of a dam built on the Salween River will occur in downstream communities and ecosystems of Burma, but Thailand’s forests, River, and people will also be affected.
Dams decrease the flow of River, which means fewer habitats, nutrients, and increased stresses on aquatic life downstream. They can cause massive changes in the ecology and water quality of the river and its tributaries. Flooding from the dam will permanently submerge forests and fertile land along the river and in the tributary valleys. Areas that are used for seasonal cultivation of crops, as well as areas that are supposed to be protected as wildlife sanctuaries will be underwater. The western edge of the Salween Wildlife Sanctuary in Thailand could be affected if the projects are implemented. Likewise, important archaeological and cultural sites will be lost. In addition, dams have huge impacts on coastal ecosystems, due to the changing in timing and volume of flows of water and nutrients from the River into estuaries and oceans.
Listed below in some detail, are some of the potential environmental impacts that hydropower development projects on the Salween River can lead to.
Vast areas of forest will be logged or flooded during the construction of the dam. Access roads will have to be built, which will open up more areas of forest to loggers, hunters, settlers, and the military.
As people are forced to relocate, more land will be cleared in new areas for the planting of crops by the displaced.The resulting deforestation can cause many problems. It destroys and reduces habitat for many species, thereby putting them at risk of being killed off. It increases the chance of flooding during the rainy season. It intensifies drought in the dry season. There is also an increase in erosion and loss of valuable topsoil. Furthermore, for the people who depend on the forest as a primary source of food, medicine, building materials, etc., their food security and livelihoods are jeopardised.