On November 29-30, 2012, IUCN, in cooperation with the Goethe Institute, organized two screenings of a 52-minute documentary on the winners and losers from hydropower development in the Mekong Region. The film was shown at the Vietnam National University (VNU) and Hanoi University of Science and Technology (HUST).
The two screenings gave the 450 students who attended the opportunity to better understand the trade-offs involved in hydropower development and to ask questions directly to some of Vietnam’s leading experts. Some of the questions went to the heart of the current debate over the planned Xayaburi dam in Laos. One student asked “After all the debate, does the government agree or disagree with hydropower development on the Mekong?” Another asked “If Vietnam does not support hydropower in Laos, what will the Vietnamese government do assist economic development in Laos?”
Students also ask what a “transparent” dam would look like and, given the negative impacts on local livelihoods, whether or not any countries are pulling dams down?
When Dr. Dao Trong Tu asked “Who loves hydropower?” only a few students raised their hands. When he asked “Who doesn’t love hydropower?” many more hands were raised. In response, students questioned Dr. Tu about alternative energy sources to hydropower and the barriers to developing these alternatives.
The questions and answers showed that there isn’t a simple yes or no answer to such big projects. According to IUCN’s Nguyen Duc Tu, “We cannot say yes or no to hydropower without assessing the full costs and benefits of a project.” What was also clear was the value of exposing students, and Vietnam’s future leaders, to the latest thinking on such a complex and controversial issue.
The film was partially funded by the Mekong Water Dialogues (MWD), a regional project coordinated by IUCN and financed by the Finland Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Ms. Nguyen Thuy Anh - Communication and Outreach Officer - IUCN Viet Nam