• Nicolas Morad Meslaoui
The governments of the Lower Mekong region have planned the construction of twelve hydropower dams on the Mekong river. This study aims to identify the factors behind the little success experienced by the anti-dams activists in the region. To do so, this paper will examine the role played by hegemonic actors in the dam industry and how their interests affect the scope of action of civil society organizations and local communities.

This research criticizes and considers dangerous the construction of hydroelectric dams in the Mekong. It is suggested that alternative and more sustainable solutions to produce electricity can be used and replace the existing projects in the region. In this sense, it is argued that there is a disharmony in the relationship between the state-society-market complex and the environment, which has resulted in the use of water as a commodity.

This study takes the form of an empirical research based on a critical approach to the theme of globalization. Such approach will help analyzing the hidden and visible structures of domination and power present in the context of the region. Accordingly, the theoretical framework is based on the work of critical authors in the field of International Political Economy and Political Ecology. The framework uses an actor-oriented approach that explores the role of governments, multinational companies and international financial institutions in the progress of neoliberal globalization. Similarly, the globalization of civil society and its use of the law as a counter-hegemonic strategy are theorized.

In line with the theoretical framework, this paper examines the interests of the Mekong governments and their impact on the effectiveness of the Mekong River Commission. Besides, this research studies the involvement of the Asian Development Bank in the dam industry and their strategies to advance their neoliberal agenda. Thereafter, the role played by private investors is put in scrutiny with an emphasis on their lack of accountability at the national and international level.

The paper’s findings suggest that national interests have resulted in weak national and regional legal and institutional frameworks surrounding the issues of water management and sustainable development. Moreover, it is argued that the legal immunity enjoyed by private investors and IFIs is greatly affecting the work of the anti-dams movement. It is concluded that the priority and legal protection given to private actors have led to a situation where opponents to dams are facing major barriers to efficiently advocate and hold accountable the perpetrators of human rights violations and environmental degradation.
Publication date29 May 2014
Number of pages76
ID: 198297158