Trade-Offs Between Hydropower Development and Food Security in River Management

  • Jamie PittockEmail author


The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) call for a major reduction in poverty and better stewardship of the environment through action in 17 areas. In Southeast Asia, rapid expansion of water infrastructure is underway, with hydropower increasing energy supply to major urban areas and high dykes enabling increases in rice production. These have severe environmental impacts that governments have been prepared to accept. However, there has been little appreciation of the negative effects of this water infrastructure development on food security. Research in the Mekong River basin shows that hydropower and intensive rice development significantly diminish wild freshwater fisheries. In focusing on the supply of calories, governments have overlooked the importance of fish in supplying protein and other essential nutrients in the food supply, especially for the rural poor. Our projections for the lower Mekong nations suggest that diminished freshwater fisheries will have knock-on effects with shortfalls in proteins being replaced through deforestation for livestock or protein-rich crop production, resource-intensive aquaculture and imports of stock feeds and meats.

This chapter highlights the need for decision-makers in developing countries to better understand the synergies and negative trade-offs between sectoral policies (such as biodiversity, energy, food and health) when considering how to meet the SDGs. Myanmar has an opportunity to learn from the successes and mistakes made in managing the resources of the Mekong River basin as it decides how the resources of the Irrawaddy and Salween River basins will be managed in future.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Fenner School of Environment and SocietyAustralian National UniversityCanberraAustralia

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