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Life in the Post-Mekong: Contested Histories and Techno-Futures

April 14, 2015 @ 5:30 pm - 6:30 pm

David Biggs

Associate Professor
University of California Riverside

As with many of the world’s largest rivers, the Mekong is slated for a host of mainstream and tributary dams. Besides flooding valleys and displacing communities, the dams upstream are likely to reduce the flow of water reaching the Mekong Delta. With river flows dropping and sea levels rising, many of the twenty million residents in the delta region fear gradual submersion and abandonment of Vietnam’s “rice bowl” unless something is done. The only viable solution, some argue, is a Dutch dike strategy – enclosing the delta in massive polders, moving water with huge pumps, and erecting a network of sea dikes. Life in the delta post-Mekong will in all likelihood be lived below sea level.  While these technical fixes may be ideal to some, their implementation is complicated by many factors. Besides problems of design and finance, the existing hydro-landscape of the delta has been deeply shaped from the political and material legacies of colonialism and war. While past government and military institutions from these eras have disappeared, the hydro-landscapes and abandoned plans (techno-futures) they introduced still linger.  Arriving at a socially equitable, sustainable future in the post-Mekong requires serious, public engagement with the contested histories of the region’s techno-past.


April 14, 2015
5:30 pm - 6:30 pm