Neoliberalizing hydropower in the Mekong Basin: The political economy of partial enclosure

TitleNeoliberalizing hydropower in the Mekong Basin: The political economy of partial enclosure
Annotated RecordNot Annotated
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsMiddleton, Grudy-Warr, Yong
Secondary TitleSocial Science Journal
Key themesEcology and Livelihoods, Framing Concepts in Water Governance, Hydropower, Transboundary Governance

This paper first outlines the new political economy of hydropower development in the Mekong basin including the partial-liberalization of Thailand and Vietnam‟s electricity sectors, and the neoliberalization of hydropower dam construction in Laos and Cambodia. The paper then proposes the concept of “partial enclosure” to explain how non-local impacts caused by hydropower dam construction on regional commons constitute a form of enclosure. Under the condition of “partial enclosure,” regional common pool resources may become degraded but not necessarily decimated which can still result in significant impacts to communities who depend upon these resources for their wellbeing. The concept of “partial enclosure” is applied to three forms of transboundary commons of the Mekong River: the temporal characteristics of Mekong River‟s flood pulse; sediment movements; and migratory fisheries. It is argued that given the neoliberalizing policies in the region‟s electricity and water sectors, and the growing role of the private sector in hydropower development that is converting resources previously held as commons to privatized ones, the notion of enclosure is particularly apt and the enclosure of the river‟s common pool resources is now well underway.


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Cambodia, Laos, Regional, Thailand, Vietnam

Document Type

Journal Article

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