Until recently, the Mekong was often referred to as one of the world’s last free running rivers. But dams have been built in this river system for decades to address irrigation, water supply and hydropower demands.
Researchers from the CGIAR Research Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems (WLE) in the Greater Mekong have developed a series of maps for five of the rivers in the Greater Mekong: Irrawaddy, Mekong, Salween, Red and a combined Irrawaddy and Salween map
The map provides the locations of all planned, under-construction and operating dams. By representing dams spatially, the map gives a sense of the true scale of dam development at a regional level.
The first iteration of the map was developed under the CGIAR Challenge Program on Water and Food (CPWF). When it was launched in 2013, it was the first time that a comprehensive overview of all regional dam activity was made available online. The map has been updated in 2015 and most recently in 2016.
Of the 755 dams tracked, 537 are completed, 152 are planned/proposed, 52 are under construction, 14 are cancelled/suspended, 392 are hydropower, 337 are irrigation, and 26 'other' types.
For hydropower dams, only those with 15 megawatts installed capacity or more have been mapped, while those dams with a reservoir area of 0.5km2 or more have been tracked for irrigation, multi-purpose, and water supply dams.
The map is used by private sector actors, planners, media, non-profit organizations and others to better understand the cumulative impact of dam development. When accessing the map online, users will not only be able to see where dams are located, but also view more detailed information, including dam name, function, height, installed capacity, year of construction, reservoir area, etc.
The map is continuously updated and users encouraged to add on their own information.