There are many different CBD oil brands in today's market. But, figuring out which brand is the best and which brand has the strongest oil might feel challenging and confusing. Our simple guide to the strongest CBD oils will point you in the right direction.
More and more people are looking to boost their health with CBD oil. The rise in CBD's popularity shows that many people are experiencing positive outcomes through the regular use of CBD to help control and improve difficult health issues.
Since there are a great deal of brands out on the market today, it can get confusing trying to figure out which brand is best and which oil strength will work best for you and your needs. Keep in mind that even though it might feel exciting to have a host of brands to choose from, not all brands are created equal.
Our guide to the strongest CBD oils will help to point you in the right direction so that you can choose the best, most potent oil for your needs. We will also educate you about the best CBD oils along the way, while also discussing how we chose our top three brands and why we named FAB CBD Oil our top pick.
The Strongest CBD Oils
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn a commission.
- FAB CBD Oil - Most Effective
- Spruce CBD Oil - Best for Pain Relief
- CBDistillery Full Spectrum Tincture - Best Value
How We Selected Our Top Brands
The influx of CBD brands out on the market can be both a good and a bad thing. While it's great to have many options to choose from, it's frustrating to not know exactly which brand is the best in terms of quality, strength, and overall reputation. It's tempting to buy products from the first brand you come upon online. However, in doing so, you might be purchasing products that are unclean, ineffective, and just simply not the best for you.
When it comes to choosing a CBD oil brand, you need to take the time and put in the research to ensure that you are getting the strongest, and best quality product you can purchase.
We've put the time and effort into selecting the top brands that we feel have the strongest CBD oil, the best reputation, and the cleanest, most effective products. But before we were able to choose our top brands, we set up strict guidelines to follow. Next, we used our guidelines to break our list down until we were left with the top brands.
When it came to selecting our top strongest CBD oils, we looked at six key categories:
- Value - product pricing
- Strength - oil strength and purity
- Source - where the brand sources its hemp from
- Flavor - oil flavors and the ingredients used in the oil
- Transparency - if a third-party lab was used to test the products and if those results are easy for customers to find
- Customer experience - verified customer reviews
Based on these factors, see which brands made our list of strongest CBD oils.
FAB believes in being transparent, crafting the highest quality products, and having a strong customer service department to make sure all of its customers' needs and questions are met and answered. The brand does not use any pesticides, herbicides, or chemicals when it comes to cultivating hemp and creating products. All of FAB's organic hemp is grown and harvested in Colorado. The brand is involved in every step of its creation process from seed to sale.
All of FAB's products are crafted from the purest, cleanest extracts possible. FAB's full-spectrum CBD oil comes in a variety of flavors and strengths. The brand offers mint, citrus, vanilla, natural, and berry oils in strengths of 300mg, 600mg, 1200mg, and 2400mg. Every one of FAB's products is tested by ProVerde Labs, an independent third-party laboratory.
- Value — Every one of FAB's products fall into the range of what you would expect to pay for a top quality CBD product. Remember, if a product is extremely cheap, then you need to look deeper into how it was made. FAB's products are absolutely priced accordingly and are of the best quality.
- Strength — FAB has some of the best, strongest, and most effective full-spectrum oils on the market today. Their oil is available in 300mg, 1200mg, and 2400mg potencies.
- Source of hemp — FAB sources all of its organic hemp from Colorado. The hemp is free from herbicides, pesticides, chemical fertilizers, and other dangerous substances. All of the hemp is grown using state-of-the-art growing and cloning technology and machinery.
- Flavors — Mint, Citrus, Vanilla, Natural, and Berry
- Transparency — Every one of FAB's products is tested by ProVerde Labs, an independent third-party laboratory.
- Customer experience — The brand has a strong reputation among both customers and industry experts for having top-quality products that are highly effective and potent.
Why buy — FAB is our number one pick simply because the brand offers some of the strongest, cleanest, and best CBD products out on the market today. Moreover, its customer services and transparency are second-to-none. The prices are affordable and the products are excellent overall.
The high potency CBD oil from Spruce CBD is a popular product among customers, and for good reason. This organic and all-natural CBD oil has no added flavor to allow for their strongest CBD concentration in a 30mL bottle. You can choose between an organic hemp seed carrier oil, best for pain, or an MCT oil option. The products are organic and non-GMO, and do not contain any additives or preservatives. The brand has a strong following online, especially in the arthritis community due to the strength and quality of their CBD oils for pain relief.
- Value — As far as pricing goes, Spruce is more expensive than other oils. The prices vary depending on the strength of the oil that you choose. The brand does, however, offer a subscribe and save option.
- Strength — Spruce's Extra Strength Full Spectrum CBD Oil contains 2,400mg of lab grade CBD oil.
- Source of hemp — Kentucky and North Carolina
- Flavors — None
- Transparency — Third-party lab tested with easily accessible test results found on their site for each batch.
- Customer experience — Just read the comments on the brand website or watch the plethora of testimonial videos, these strong CBD oils have built a following for a reason.
Why buy — While Spruce oils are expensive, we do feel that the brand does everything possible to ensure that its oils are high-quality, extremely potent, and 100 percent all-natural. The founder of Spruce got his start in the supplement space and is deeply involved in customer service and feedback, making it a wellness brand we trust.
CBDistillery sells a line of carefully crafted CBD hemp oils. With quality CBD oils starting at $20, CBDistillery offers good products at a great price. This affordability and their extremely potent CBD oils (like the 2500mg option) have made CBDistillery one of the fastest growing companies in the hemp space. Their Colorado-grown product line is comprehensive, including various oil concentrations, salves, edibles, and suppositories.
- Value — The brand offers customers premium products at affordable prices.
- Strength — The oils come in a variety of strengths, including 500mg, 1000mg, and 2500mg, which is the strongest concentration found on our list.
- Source of hemp — CBDistillery sources all of its organic hemp from Colorado. The hemp is regularly tested for the presence of microbes, solvents, heavy metals, pesticides, and chemical fertilizers.
- Flavors — None
- Transparency — All CBDistillery products are tested by independent third-party labs with results available online.
- Customer experience — CBDistillery has a strong reputation among customers for crafting high-quality products that are both strong and effective. According to verified customer reviews, the brand's products are effective and clean.
Why buy — CBDistillery is a reputable brand that works hard to create quality, potent, and affordable products. The brand has a broad product line that includes oils, gummies, and topicals. All products are made in America. CBDistillery does offer coupon codes.
How To Know If You're Selecting The Most Potent Oil
There are several key factors to take into consideration when choosing the strongest CBD oil. One of the first things to look at is the concentration of CBD within the product. Next, take a look at the milligrams of CBD that are in a single serving. The best quality products clearly have all the facts and information laid out on their labels. In reading the labels, you should be able to tell exactly how much CBD you are getting per serving. How much CBD you need to be taking depends on how your body reacts to the product over time.
CBD strength per serving will appear smaller when compared to the listing of CBD for the whole bottle. In looking for the strongest CBD oil, look to the serving size listed on the bottle. The total amount of CBD in a bottle will do very little to tell you how strong the product is overall. For example, 2400mg of CBD oil in a 30ml bottle is a lot stronger than 5000mg of CBD oil in a 60ml bottle.
How Much CBD Oil Is Enough?
Everyone's body is different, so what works well for one person might not work for another. Smaller individuals might need less CBD than larger individuals based on body size and overall mass. Along with body size, the reason you are taking CBD is another consideration in purchasing strong CBD oil.
Likewise, if you are new to CBD or are not taking for pain, consider purchasing CBD oil in strengths of 300mg, 500mg, or 750mg. Conversely, if you have been taking CBD for quite some time or are trying to alleviate chronic or severe pain, then you might consider purchasing oils of higher potencies such as 600mg, 1200mg, or 2400mg strengths.
Whatever oil strength you choose, you should first start low and go slow when it comes to dosing. For example, begin by taking 5mg of CBD once a day for one week. If you are not feeling any relief from your pain, then go ahead and take 5mg twice a day. Continue increasing the dosage slowly until you are achieving the desired effects. Always check in with yourself to see how you are feeling along the way. This will help you to determine if you should increase the dosage at all. As with any other medication or holistic supplement, your body will need adequate time to get used to a new CBD dosage.
To use a real life example: when you receive your bottle of CBD, begin by taking ½ a dropper of FAB CBD's full spectrum oil once a day for one week. This will equal about 5mg of CBD. After one week has passed, increase the dose to ½ a dropper two times a day for a week. This will now equal about 10mg of CBD a day. While you are going through this, do a body check-in to see how you are feeling and what your pain levels are, if you have any. This will be the best way to determine whether or not you should increase your dose of CBD.
Should You Take The Strongest Potency CBD Oil?
As with any natural supplement, there are a list of pros and cons that come along with CBD. Each one of these should be taken with the utmost consideration before purchasing an oil of a higher strength. In taking the strongest CBD oils, here are the benefits vs the drawbacks:
- You need less of the oil to have an impact
- Stronger potencies have a better impact on severe symptoms as well as larger people
- Since you will need to take less of the oil, stronger doses are more affordable in the long-run
- Stronger oils work better in tackling sleep issues and decreasing pain
- Stronger oils may not be for everyone, as they can cause some mild side effects including dry mouth, lowered blood pressure, and lightheadedness/dizziness
- It may be difficult to find the right dosage for you with stronger oils
- Stronger oils can have a sedating effect
The Science on CBD Oil
CBD oil is created when cannabidiol, or CBD, is infused into a fat-based carrier oil such as hempseed oil, coconut oil, grapeseed oil, or olive oil. Carrier oils are usually medium-chain triglycerides that are easily digested by the body. The very basic oils will only have CBD and the carrier oil, however, some can also contain other compounds such as tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, flavonoids, phytonutrients, and terpenes. Some brands will also infuse various natural flavors or essential oils into the final products.
CBD oil can vary in color, flavor, and consistency depending on its makeup. Likewise, the strength also depends on the oil's formulation. CBD oils can be isolates, broad spectrum, or full spectrum. In CBD isolates, only pure CBD is used. These oils are usually 99 percent pure. CBD isolates are typically made solely from the hemp plant.
Broad spectrum and full spectrum oils, on the other hand, are typically sourced from the cannabis plant and have had minimal processing and purification. These oils have a large amount of cannabinoids, terpenes, nutrients, vitamins, and phytonutrients. The difference between the two is that broad spectrum CBD products contain zero THC.
Along with CBD, one of the main compounds in full spectrum oils is THC. In large amounts, THC causes feelings of euphoria. However, legally, all CBD crafted and sold within the United States must contain less than 0.3% THC. When CBD and THC are combined, an entourage effect occurs. In the entourage effect, the compounds work together to dampen each other's negative side effects while amplifying each other's best qualities. For example, too much THC can cause feelings of nausea or dizziness. However, when THC is combined with CBD, the THC enables those with sleep issues to finally get some rest, and helps those with extreme nausea, due to cancer treatment, finally get some much-needed nourishment by increasing appetite. Put simply, the cannabinoids bind with cell receptors in the human endocannabinoid system to create therapeutic effects.
How To Choose The Best Strength
While it may be easy to read the label on the CBD bottle and take the strength listed at face value, this is not the case when determining the strength of each dose. Strength equates to potency. In a 30ml bottle of CBD oil, you could have 3,000mg of CBD or 6,000mg of CBD depending on which you purchase. The stronger bottle will have 6,000mg of CBD per bottle, as you would have to take twice as much of the 3,000mg CBD to equal just one dose of the 6,000mg bottle.
Quality CBD brands test the potency during every stage of oil production. They test hemp plants, then they test the initial crude oil, and they also continually test the oil during every stage of the distillation process. The reason that there is so much testing done to the product is because reputable brands need to ensure that the oils they are creating are of the best quality, consistency, and that their products are falling within the legal guidelines.
Reputable brands, like the ones we've profiled above, bring in independent laboratories to test the overall oil strength by analyzing for 14 minor and major cannabinoids including CBD, THC, CBN, and CBG. Their results show the overall percentages of these compounds that are in the oil. All reputable brands will then make those results easily available on their website or within the product packaging.
Why Strength Matters
The strength of an oil does matter. The more potent a CBD oil is, the stronger effects it will create. To that end, full spectrum oils are the best oils to go with because CBD isolates do not have all of the other vitamins, terpenes, compounds, and phytonutrients that full spectrum oils have. So, not only will you be getting all the positive effects that a strong oil has to offer, you'll also be able to receive the vast therapeutic benefits that the many compounds, terpenes, and phytonutrients bring to the table.
When it comes to receiving the therapeutic benefits of a strong, full spectrum oil, experts advise to hold the oil under your tongue for a few minutes (up to four minutes) in order for the oil to enter into your bloodstream. Otherwise, if you swallow the oil right away, the oil will be quickly broken down by the body's digestive system.
Is It Safe To Take Strong CBD Oil?
This is a common question asked by many who are new to the world of CBD. Regardless of the strength, CBD oil is very safe. In fact, there are very few minor side effects associated with it. To date, a great number of studies have been done on CBD proving it's safety and efficacy.
Some of the most common side effects associated with CBD are:
- Changes in weight
- Changes in appetite
When you take into consideration the many dangerous side effects associated with prescription medications, CBD is a very safe alternative. Therefore, it's no surprise that more people are turning to more potent options of CBD to help with tough health issues.
Final Thoughts On The Strongest CBD Oils
There are many different strengths of CBD oil available. And while there are benefits to using CBD oil regardless of the potency, stronger oils are recommended for larger individuals or for people who are trying to get a handle on difficult health conditions such as sleep issues, severe arthritis pain, Crohn's Disease, osteoarthritis, cancer-related nausea, and others.
In selecting a strong oil, you first need to do the research so that you can make sure you are buying a high quality product from a reputable brand. When you find a brand you like, go ahead and look into the brand's hemp sources, oil strengths and purities, verified customer reviews, transparency, and whether or not the brand used a third-party lab to test its products and if those results were made readily available for customers to find.
Less oil needs to be consumed when stronger oils are used. In order to receive the most benefits from the dose, it's advised to hold the oil under your tongue for about four minutes so that it can be properly absorbed into the bloodstream. Simply swallowing the oil means that the digestive system will break it down faster than you can obtain any benefits.
When it comes to selecting a brand to go with, keep in mind that not every brand is created equal. While it's great to have so many options to choose from, you really need to put the work in to make sure you are purchasing the best possible product from the best possible brand.
If you're becoming frustrated or overwhelmed in your research, feel free to use our article as a guide.
Our Choice for Strongest CBD Oils
We've chosen FAB as our number one choice in our strongest CBD oils guide because FAB has a stellar reputation for putting out the best, most potent, cleanest CBD oils on the market today. The brand is also extremely transparent in the way that it operates and in the overall production process of its products. FAB also uses an independent third-party lab, ProVerde Laboratories, to regularly test all of its products. Those results are then made easy for customers to find on FAB's website.
By law, all of the best CBD oils that are sold and purchased within the United States must contain less than 0.3% THC in them. Oils that have over that amount clearly are not following the mandatory legal guidelines. Another fact to keep in mind is that while strong oils are great, the type of oil matters too. CBD isolates, while fantastic in their own way, do not contain any of the vitamins, cannabinoid compounds, terpenes, and phytonutrients that broad spectrum or full-spectrum oils do. The combination of strength and what the oil consists of is what determines its effectiveness and therapeutic value.
In selecting a strength, remember that a 3,000mg oil will be less strong than a 6,000mg oil if they are both sold in a 30ml bottle. However, if you have 2,400mg of CBD in a 30ml bottle and 5,000mg in an 80ml bottle, then the smaller, 30ml bottle with 2,400mg of CBD will be more potent. When selecting a product, you will absolutely need to take your time and choose wisely.
Lastly, if you have any questions or concerns surrounding CBD, potential side effects, strengths, etc., then please do not hesitate to reach out to your primary care physician or specialist to set up an appointment to discuss things more at length.
CBD oil can be a great addition to any natural healthcare routine. Just make sure you are putting in the time and effort to find the product and the brand that is best suited to your own unique needs, condition, and lifestyle.
* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
By Deborah Moore, Michael Simon and Darryl Knudsen
There's some good news amidst the grim global pandemic: At long last, the world's largest dam removal is finally happening.
A young activist for a free-flowing Salween River. A team of campaigners and lawyers from EarthRights International joined Indigenous Karen communities on the Salween in 2018 to celebrate the International Day of Actions for Rivers on March 14. This year, EarthRights joined communities living in the Eu-Wae-Tta internally displaced persons camp for a celebration in solidarity with those impacted by dam projects on the Salween River. EarthRights International<p>The dam removal project is a sign of the decline of the hydropower industry, whose fortunes have fallen as the <a href="https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-46098118" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">troubling</a> cost-benefit ratio of dams has become clear over the years. The rise of more cost-effective and sustainable energy sources (including wind and solar) has hastened this shift. This is exactly the type of progress envisioned by the <a href="https://www.yumpu.com/en/document/read/17023836/dams-and-development-a-new-framework-for-decision" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">World Commission on Dams</a> (WCD), a global multi-stakeholder body that was established by the World Bank and International Union for Conservation of Nature in 1998 to investigate the effectiveness and performance of large dams around the world. The WCD released a damning landmark <a href="https://www.un.org/press/en/2000/20001117.dam.pressconferencepm.doc.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">report</a> in November 2000 on the enormous financial, environmental and human costs and the dismal performance of large dams. The commission spent <a href="https://www.un.org/press/en/2000/20001117.dam.pressconferencepm.doc.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">two years</a> analyzing the outcome of the trillions of dollars invested in dams, reviewing dozens of case studies and testimonies from over a thousand communities and individuals, before producing the report.</p><p>But despite this progress, we cannot take hydropower's decline as inevitable. As governments around the world plan for a post-pandemic recovery, hydropower companies sense an opportunity. The industry is eager to recast itself as climate-friendly (<a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/how-green-is-hydropower-1919539525.html" target="_self">it's not</a>) and <a href="https://www.hydropower.org/covid-19" target="_blank">secure</a> precious stimulus funds to revive its dying industry — at the expense of people, the environment and a truly just, green recovery.</p>
Hydropower’s Troubling Record<p>The world's largest hydropower dam removal project on the Klamath River is a significant win for tribal communities. But while the Yurok and Karuk tribes <a href="https://www.karuk.us/images/docs/press/bring_salmon_home.php" target="_blank">suffered</a> terribly from the decline of the Klamath's fisheries, they were by no means alone in that experience. The environmental catastrophe that occurred along the Klamath River has been replicated all over the world since the global boom in hydropower construction <a href="https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/article/hydropower" target="_blank">began</a> early in the 20th century.</p><p>The rush to dam rivers has had huge consequences. After decades of rampant construction, only <a href="https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/2019/05/worlds-free-flowing-rivers-mapped-hydropower/" target="_blank">37 percent of the world's rivers remain free-flowing</a>, according to <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-019-1111-9" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">one study</a>. River fragmentation has <a href="https://academic.oup.com/bioscience/article/70/4/330/5732594" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">decimated freshwater habitats and fish stocks</a>, threatening food security for millions of the world's most vulnerable people, and hastening the <a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/jeffopperman/2020/10/13/freshwater-wildlife-continues-to-decline-but-new-energy-trendlines-suggest-we-can-bend-that-curve/?sh=f9d175a61ee4" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">decline of other myriad freshwater species</a>, including mammals, birds and reptiles.</p><p>The communities that experienced the most harm from dams — whether in Asia, Latin America or Africa — often lacked political power and access. But that didn't stop grassroots movements from organizing and growing to fight for their rights and livelihoods. The people affected by dams began raising their voices, sharing their experiences and forging alliances across borders. By the 1990s, the public <a href="https://tinyurl.com/y55lnlst" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">outcry</a> against large dams had grown so loud that it finally led to the establishment of the WCD.</p><p>What the WCD found was stunning. While large dam projects had brought some economic benefits, they had also <a href="https://www.irn.org/wcd/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">forcibly displaced an estimated 40 to 80 million people in the 20th century alone</a>. To put that number into perspective, it is more than the current population of present-day <a href="https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SP.POP.TOTL?locations=FR" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">France</a> or the <a href="https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SP.POP.TOTL?locations=GB" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">United Kingdom</a>. These people lost their lands and homes to dams, and often with no compensation.</p><p>Subsequent research has compounded that finding. A paper published in <a href="https://tinyurl.com/c7uznz" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Water Alternatives</a> revealed that globally, more than <a href="https://tinyurl.com/yxw8x7ab" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">470 million people living downstream from large dams</a> have faced significant impacts to their lives and livelihoods — much of it due to disruptions in water supply, which in turn harm the complex web of life that depends on healthy, free-flowing rivers. The WCD's findings, released in 2000, <a href="https://www.irn.org/wcd/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">identified</a> the importance of restoring rivers, compensating communities for their losses, and finding better energy alternatives to save rivers and ecosystems.</p>
Facing a New Crisis<p>Twenty years after the WCD uncovered a crisis along the world's rivers and recommended a new development path — one that advances community-driven development and protects freshwater resources — we find ourselves in the midst of another crisis. The global pandemic has hit us hard, with surging loss of life, unemployment and instability.</p><p>But as governments work to rebuild economies and create job opportunities in the coming years, we have a choice: Double down on the failed, outdated technologies that have harmed so many, or change course and use this transformative moment to rebuild our natural systems and uplift communities.</p><p>There are many reasons to fight for a green recovery. The climate is changing even <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-018-07586-5" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">faster</a> than expected, and some dams — especially those with reservoirs in hot climates — <a href="https://tinyurl.com/w6w29t8" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">have been found to emit more greenhouse gases than a fossil fuel power plant</a>. Other estimates have put global reservoirs' human-made greenhouse gas emissions each year on par with <a href="https://www.climatecentral.org/news/greenhouse-gases-reservoirs-fuel-climate-change-20745" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Canada's</a> total emissions.</p><p>Meanwhile, we now understand that healthy rivers and freshwater ecosystems play a <a href="https://www.environment.gov.au/system/files/resources/b55b1fe4-7d09-47af-96c4-6cbb5f106d4f/files/wetlands-role-carbon-cycle.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">critical role in regulating and storing carbon</a>. And at a time when <a href="https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/blog/2019/05/nature-decline-unprecedented-report/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">biodiversity loss is soaring</a>, anything we can do to <a href="https://academic.oup.com/bioscience/article/70/4/330/5732594" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">restore habitat is key</a>. But with <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/publication/271996520_A_Global_Boom_in_Hydropower_dam_Construction" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">more than 3,700 major dams proposed or under construction</a> in the world (primarily in the Global South, with over <a href="https://news.mongabay.com/2020/08/more-than-500-dams-planned-inside-protected-areas-study/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">500 of these in protected areas</a>), according to a 2014 report — and the hydropower industry <a href="https://www.hydropower.org/covid-19" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">jockeying</a> for scarce stimulus dollars — we must act urgently.</p>
Signs of Hope<img lazy-loadable="true" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTcxMzUyMS9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxOTcyNTc3OX0.EbqBVPs2kjhrY5AqnZXOb_GX-s6pw4qyJmmeISzKA6U/img.png?width=980" id="a81d0" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="87bc79d69f72e9334a78da8e0355e6ae" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="1620" data-height="1068" />
Fish catch at the Siphandone on the Mekong River, prior to the completion of the Don Sahong Dam. Pai Deetes / International Rivers<p>So what would a strong, resilient and equitable recovery look like in the 21st century? Let's consider one example in Southeast Asia.</p><p>Running through six countries, the Mekong River is the world's 12th-longest river, which is home to one of the world's most biodiverse regions, and includes the world's <a href="https://www.worldwildlife.org/places/greater-mekong#" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">largest</a> inland fishery. Around <a href="https://tinyurl.com/y6jrarjo" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">80 percent of the nearly 65 million people</a> who live in the Lower Mekong River Basin depend on the river for their livelihoods, according to the Mekong River Commission. In 1994, Thailand built the Pak Mun Dam on a Mekong tributary. <a href="https://tinyurl.com/y5ekfp4h" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Six years later</a>, the <a href="https://tinyurl.com/yxcvs6up" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">WCD studied the dam's performance</a> and submitted its conclusions and recommendations as part of its final report in 2000. According to the WCD report, the Pak Mun Dam did not deliver the peaking energy service it was designed for, and it <a href="https://tinyurl.com/y38p3jaw" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">physically blocked a critical migration route</a> for a range of fish species that migrated annually to breeding grounds upstream in the Mun River Basin. Cut off from their customary habitat, fish stocks plummeted, and so did the livelihoods of the local people.</p><p>Neighboring Laos, instead of learning from this debacle, followed in Thailand's footsteps, <a href="https://tinyurl.com/y4eaxcq2" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">constructing two dams on the river's mainstem</a>, Xayaburi Dam, commissioned in 2019, and Don Sahong Dam, commissioned in 2020. But then a sign of hope appeared. In early 2020, just as the pandemic began to spread across the world, the <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/20/cambodia-scraps-plans-for-mekong-hydropower-dams" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Cambodian government reconsidered its plans to build more dams on the Mekong</a>. The science was indisputable: A government-commissioned report showed that further dams would <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/may/16/leaked-report-warns-cambodias-biggest-dam-could-literally-kill-mekong-river" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">reduce the river's wild fisheries, threaten critically endangered Irrawaddy dolphins</a> and <a href="https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/2013WR014651" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">block nutrient-rich sediment from the delta's fertile agricultural lands</a>.</p><p><a href="https://data.opendevelopmentmekong.net/dataset/4f1bb5fd-a564-4d37-878b-c288af460143/resource/5f6fe360-7a68-480d-9ba4-12d7b8b805c9/download/volume-3_solar-alternative-to-sambor-dam.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Studies</a> show that Cambodia didn't need to seek billions of dollars in loans to build more hydropower; instead, it could pursue more cost-effective solar and wind projects that would deliver needed electricity at a fraction of the cost — and <a href="https://www.worldwildlife.org/press-releases/wwf-statement-on-cambodian-government-s-decision-to-suspend-hydropower-dam-development-on-the-mekong-river" target="_blank">without the ecological disasters to fisheries and the verdant Mekong delta</a>. And, in a stunning reversal, Cambodia listened to the science — and to the people — and <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/20/cambodia-scraps-plans-for-mekong-hydropower-dams" target="_blank">announced</a> a 10-year moratorium on mainstream dams. Cambodia is now <a href="https://www.voanews.com/east-asia-pacific/cambodia-halts-hydropower-construction-mekong-river-until-2030" target="_blank">reconsidering</a> its energy mix, recognizing that mainstream hydropower dams are too costly and undermine the economic and cultural values of its flagship river.</p>
Toward a Green Recovery<img lazy-loadable="true" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTcxMzUwOS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1MTMwMjk0M30.0LZCOEVzgtgjm2_7CwcbFfuZlrtUr80DiRYxqKGaKIg/img.jpg?width=980" id="87fe9" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="e6b9bfeb013516f6ad5033bb9e03c5ec" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="2100" data-height="3086" />
Klamath River Rapids. Tupper Ansel Blake / U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service<p>Increasingly, governments, civil servants and the public at large are rethinking how we produce energy and are seeking to preserve and restore precious freshwater resources. Dam removals are increasing exponentially across <a href="https://www.americanrivers.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/DamsRemoved_1999-2019.pdf" target="_blank">North America</a> and <a href="https://damremoval.eu/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/DRE-policy-Report-2018-digitaal-010319.pdf" target="_blank">Europe</a>, and movements advancing <a href="https://www.rightsofrivers.org/" target="_blank">permanent river protection are growing across Latin America, Asia and Africa</a>.</p><p>We must use the COVID-19 crisis to accelerate the trend. Rather than relying on old destructive technologies and industry claims of newfound "<a href="https://www.hydrosustainability.org/news/2020/11/12/consultation-on-a-groundbreaking-global-sustainability-standard-for-hydropower" target="_blank">sustainable hydropower</a>," the world requires a new paradigm for an economic recovery that is rooted both in climate and economic justice as well as river stewardship. Since December 2020, hundreds of groups and individuals from more than 80 countries have joined the <a href="https://www.rivers4recovery.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Rivers4Recovery</a> call for a better way forward for rivers and natural places. This paradigm will protect our rivers as critical lifelines — supporting fisheries, biodiversity, water supply, food production, Indigenous peoples and diverse populations around the world — rather than damming and polluting them.</p><p>The promise of the Klamath dam removals is one of restoration — a move that finally recognizes the immense value of free-flowing rivers and the key role they play in <a href="https://f.hubspotusercontent20.net/hubfs/4783129/LPR/PDFs/Living_Planet_Report_Freshwater_Deepdive.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">nourishing both the world's biodiversity and hundreds of millions of people</a>. Healthy rivers — connected to watershed forests, floodplains, wetlands and deltas — are key partners in building resilience in the face of an accelerating climate crisis. But if we allow the hydropower industry to succeed in its <a href="https://www.world-energy.org/article/12361.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cynical grab for stimulus funds</a>, we'll only perpetuate the 20th century's legacy of suffering and environmental degradation.</p><p>We must put our money where our values are. Twenty years ago, the WCD pointed the way forward to a model of development that takes humans, wildlife and the environment into account, and in 2020, we saw that vision flower along the Klamath River. It's time to bring that promise of healing and restoration to more of the world's rivers.</p><p><em>Deborah Moore is a former commissioner of the <a href="https://www.water-alternatives.org/index.php/alldoc/articles/vol3/v3issue2/79-a3-2-2/file" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer" style="">World Commission on Dams</a>. Michael Simon was a member of the <a href="https://www.hydrosustainability.org/assessment-protocol" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer" style="">Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Forum</a>. Darryl Knudsen is the executive director of <a href="https://www.internationalrivers.org" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer" style="">International Rivers</a>.</em></p><p><em>This article first appeared on <a href="https://truthout.org/articles/damming-rivers-is-terrible-for-human-rights-ecosystems-and-food-security/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Truthout</a> and was produced in partnership with <a href="https://independentmediainstitute.org/earth-food-life/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Earth | Food | Life</a>, a project of the Independent Media Institute.</em></p>
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