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Australia showcases Mekong fish migration technology

The Australian government last week joined the global community at the 10th World Water Forum in Bali, Indonesia, showcasing an innovative fish passage system, which could potentially address fish migration problems in the Mekong basin, one of the key factors in maintaining food security in the region.

Prof. Lee Baumgartner (first left) explains to MRC delegations how fish passages can enhance fish migration along the Mekong River.

On May 21, at the Australia Exhibition Booth, Prof. Lee Baumgartner, head of the Australia-funded Fish Tech, described the system to Dr Anoulak Kittikhoun, CEO of the Mekong River Commission (MRC) Secretariat, and his delegation.
Fish migration is one of the compulsory areas that Mekong dam developers must address under the 1995 Mekong Agreement. The MRC, which serves as a knowledge hub and water diplomacy platform, is looking for new technology to address Mekong challenges including fish migration.
Over past years, countries in the Mekong region have constructed irrigation systems and hydropower dams to support agricultural production and energy generation. However, these impede the natural migration of fish, essential for breeding and nursing, thus affecting fish population growth.
Fish production is crucial for food security and household incomes in the Mekong basin. Protecting fish species is also vital for the environment and the economy of communities living along the river.
In an interview with the Vientiane Times at the World Water Forum, Prof. Baumgartner, who is also an Executive Director and Professor of Fisheries and River Management at Charles Sturt University, said fish passage research began in 2008 to explore whether fish ladders could facilitate fish migration.
Prof. Baumgartner said that since the project’s inception, 48 fish passages have been built across the Mekong countries, including 26 in Laos, with financial support from the Australian government, ADB, the World Bank, and JICA.
“At low head irrigation structures, we see up to 95 percent of fish, from over 130 species, successfully migrating upstream thanks to the fish passages,” Prof. Baumgartner said.
He added that due to the effectiveness of the technology, there are plans to construct at least 40 more facilities in the Mekong region in the coming years.
Villagers living along the rivers where fish passages have been built have expressed their gratitude, noting the increase in fish populations in their communities, he said.
The World Water Forum, which ended on May 25, provided an opportunity for international communities, UN bodies, intergovernmental organisations, civil society, and the private sector to showcase knowledge, technology, and experiences addressing water security and associated issues.
Some 17,000 people from the public and private sectors attended the forum to pledge their political commitment, and share their knowledge and experiences in addressing water security and related issues.


By Ekaphone Phouthonesy
 (Latest Update May 27, 2024)

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