Archive for ‘Feature’

June 28, 2014

Effects of Laos dam project to be revealed

 

Laos takes ‘courteous’ approach to next Mekong dam project, agrees to consult before work starts

Reuters

June 28, 2014

Updated 2 hours 31 minutes ago

Click on the link to get more news and video from original source: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-06-28/laos-dam/5557196

Fishing at rapids in the Siphandone area of the Mekong River in Laos

Fishing at rapids in Siphandone area, site of proposed Don Sahong hydro-electric dam.  Photo: International Rivers

Laos has agreed to consult its neighbours before starting construction of a second controversial dam on the Mekong River.

It’s already going ahead with the much bigger Xayaburi dam to supply power to China, despite opposition from Vietnam and Cambodia.

Agreement to allow environmental assessments and for a formal consultation process on the proposed Don Sahong dam was reached at a meeting of the Mekong River Commission in Bangkok.

The commission comprises Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand.

Laos accepted environmental and other studies for the Xayaburi dam after pressure from its neighbours, but went ahead with construction even while they were being conducted.

But this time Vientiane has given an assurance work will not start during the six-month consultation process, describing the move as a “courtesy”.

The Don Sahong project is the second of 11 hydroelectric dams planned for the Mekong mainstream, which has raised concerns about the impact on the environment and livelihoods of millions of people.

It will generate 260 megawatts of electricity, mainly for export to Thailand and Cambodia compared with Xayaburi’s 1,260 megawatts, around 95 percent of which will go to Thailand.

The environmental group International Rivers is among those to have welcomed the decision.

But it says further action is needed “to ensure that the rapid progress of dam building on the Mekong … does not go unchecked”.

Officials say recommendations resulting from the studies of the Don Sahong project would not be binding on Laos.

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Effects of Laos dam project to be revealed

Posted on 27 June 2014

Click on the link to get more news and video from original source: http://wwf.panda.org/?224398/Effects-of-Laos-dam-project-to-be-revealed

Two Mekong Irrawaddy dolphins spotted at Tbong Kla deep pool
© WWF- Cambodia/ Gerad Ryan

WWF welcomes the Lao Government’s decision to have the Don Sahong hydropower project undergo a formal consultation process, a decision likely to delay construction of the project.

The consultation process requires Laos to hold inter-governmental consultations before proceeding with the dam, and conduct and share studies on the project’s environmental and the social impacts. The process will take at least six months to complete.

“Laos is now promising to do what they already signed up to under the Mekong agreement, and should have done months ago” said Marc Goichot, WWF-Greater Mekong’s lead on sustainable hydropower. “Their decision to consult on the Don Sahong project, and share critical details about the project’s impacts, comes after intense pressure from neighbouring countries. It is critical that pressure is maintained to ensure Laos delivers on their promise.”

In September last year, Laos announced its decision to proceed with the Don Sahong dam, bypassing the Mekong River Commision’s (MRC) consultation process.

The much-criticised project was discussed at the June 26-27 meeting of the MRC – an inter-governmental agency made up of representatives from the four Lower Mekong nations — Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam.

The Don Sahong dam threatens the Mekong’s critically endangered Irrawaddy dolphins and will block the only channel available for dry-season fish migration, putting the world’s largest inland fishery at risk. Close to 200,000 people have signed WWF’s petition calling on the dam builder, Mega First, to pull out of the project.

“We thank people around the world who signed the WWF’s petition to stop the Don Sahong dam,” added Goichot. “Mega First would do well to listen to the growing voices of opposition to this disastrous project and reconsider their engagement.”

The Don Sahong dam is the second dam on the Lower Mekong mainstem, following the controversial Xayaburi dam that Laos has begun constructing despite opposition from neighbouring Cambodia and Vietnam.

“The Mekong River Commission’s joint decision-making process was effectively broken in 2012 when Laos decided unilaterally to proceed with Xayaburi dam, against the express wishes of Vietnam and Cambodia,” added Goichot.

“There is currently little faith in the MRC’s process to ensure joint decisions are made for the benefit of all Mekong nations. If Laos fails to be held to account, the MRC will soon lose its legitimacy and 60 million people living in the Mekong basin will suffer.”

Crowd of children with Pra or River catfish (Pangasianodon hypophthalmus). River catfish are closely related to the Mekong giant catfish (Pangasianodon gigas), a critically endangered Mekong endemic specieis. The Mekong giant catfish migrates from the Tonle Sap Lake to the Mekong River at the end of the rainy season each year and a dam like Don Sahong would block their migration.
© Zeb Hogan / WWF-Canon

 

 

June 27, 2014

Construction on Laos’s Mekong dams harried by lawsuits, political pressure

 

Construction on Laos’s Mekong dams harried by lawsuits, political pressure 

Friday, June 27, 2014 16:04
In a gesture likely aimed at placating its neighbors, Laos has agreed to submit its second Mekong River dam to the regional consultation process it sidestepped last year.
But experts say Laos is nowhere close to abandoning the dam and another it’s building on the Mekong. Environmental groups say these projects threaten the livelihood of tens of millions of people who depend on the mighty river.
“I fear that this will, at the best, only delay the construction by six months,” Marc Goichot, who works for environmental group WWF’s Greater Mekong program on sustainable hydropower, told Thanh Nien News.
“There are not yet any signs that the proponents of the project are taking seriously the concerns voiced by other Mekong riparian governments,” he said, adding that he believes the Lao government is unlikely to reconsider the project.
Last September, Laos announced that it would embark on the Don Sahong project, the second of 11 dams planned by Laos on the lower reaches of the 4,900-kilometer (3,045-mile)-long Mekong, which is second only to the Amazon in terms of biodiversity. Work on the Don Sahong dam is slated to begin in December at a site less than two kilometers from the Cambodian border, according to Lao officials.

Cambodian fishermen who live by the Mekong River pass the time by their boats outside Phnom Penh. Photo credit: Reuters

Environmental groups have warned that the 260-megawatt dam threatens to block the only channel that currently allows year-round fish migrations on a large scale and will certainly wipe out one of the last populations of endangered Irrawaddy dolphins.
Laos, which shrugged off those concerns altogether, has also been at odds with its riparian neighbors — particularly Vietnam and Cambodia — over the project’s prior consultation (e.g. regional decision-making) process.
Laos maintains that it need only notify its neighbors of its intent to build the dam because it is located neither in the tributary nor on the mainstream of the Mekong. It’s downstream neighbors, however, have demanded that the consultation process take place before the dam is built, citing its trans-boundary impacts.
Vietnam, Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia are bound by a 1995 Mekong treaty that requires each signatory to hold inter-governmental consultations before damming the river. No single country has veto powers and Laos will have the final say on whether or not to proceed.
At a regional meeting of the Mekong River Commission — a regional body established to coordinate dam projects on the river — in Bangkok on Thursday, Laos said it would agree to resubmit the Don Sahong project to the prior consultation process.
But environmentalists say they view the process as a diplomatic formality.
During the meeting, Laos’ Deputy Energy Minister Viraphonh Viravong told participants “with your support and constructive input, the Lao government will continue to develop the project in a responsible and sustainable manner.”

He told reporters that construction would not start during the six-month consultation process. “No, we will not start building. That is courtesy. Laotians are courteous,” he was quoted by Reuters as saying Friday.

Naturally, that didn’t go over too well.
A recent site visit by International Rivers, a California-based environmental group, has confirmed that construction work towards the Don Sahong dam in southern Laos.
The site visit held in early June confirmed that workers have begun construction of a bridge connecting the mainland to Don Sadam Island, the group said. The bridge will create an access route for construction on the Hou Sahong Channel, it added.
“One has to wonder how sincere a consultation process is when infrastructure in support of the project is being put into place at the same time,” said Ian Baird, an expert on Laos and specialist on hydro-power dams and fisheries at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
‘Laos has few resources’
In November 2012, Laos broke ground on the US$3.8-billion 1,260-megawatt Xayaburi dam project despite vehement objections from environmental groups and its neighbors who said the 810-meter (2,600ft) dam would unleash massive ecological changes on a river that feeds around 60 million people. The project is now 40 percent complete, according to Lao officials.
Opponents of the Xayaburi and Don Sahong projects said their commencement would usher in the construction of the 9 other dams planned by Laos on the Mekong, which begins in the Tibetan plateau and flows through China, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam before emptying into the East Sea (internationally known as the South China Sea).
At that time, Laos prematurely insisted that the prior consultation process on the Xayaburi project was already over, which drew sharp criticism from three other Mekong nations. Since then, the four countries have failed to agree on whether or not the process is still ongoing.
“The failure to reach consensus was interpreted by Laos as a green light to move ahead with construction of the Xayaburi dam,” Goichot said. “We cannot see any signs that this will be different for Don Sahong.”
Landlocked Laos plans to become the “battery of Southeast Asia” by exporting the vast majority of its power – mostly to Thailand – and has promoted the Xayaburi dam as a potential source of income and investment that will spur its small economy.
“Laos has few resources. Hydroelectricity is one, and the Lao government is determined to exploit it,” said Martin Stuart-Fox, a Laos expert at the University of Queensland in Australia. “Most dams have been relatively uncontroversial because they have been on tributaries. Don Sahong and Xayaburi are controversial because they are on the Mekong itself,” he said.
“From the Lao point of view, why should they be prevented from exploiting the river?”
Light at the end of the tunnel?
But on the bright side, the concession made by Laos has come at a convenient juncture for environmental groups and activists.
On Tuesday, Reuters reported that a Thai court agreed to hear a lawsuit against state-owned Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT) and four other state bodies for agreeing to buy electricity from the Xayaburi project. Thailand plans to buy around 95 percent of the electricity generated by the massive mainstream dam.
Villagers from Thai provinces near the Mekong petitioned the Administrative Court in 2012 to suspend a power purchasing agreement signed by EGAT and Laos’s Xayaburi Power Company Limited, but the court ruled it had no jurisdiction to hear the case. That decision was reversed on Tuesday when the Supreme Administrative Court sided with villagers, who are demanding full environmental and health impact assessments.
The court will now call on the Thai government agencies to respond to questions and allow the plaintiff to rebut their response.  The court could take a year or longer to renders a verdict.
“[If] the power purchase agreement is suspended or cancelled, it will be financially risky for the developer to proceed with construction on the Xayaburi Dam as there will be no buyer for the dam’s electricity,” said Ame Trandem, Southeast Asia program director for International Rivers.
A growing civil society movement against dam construction has taken hold throughout the region. Meanwhile, Vietnam and Cambodia have reiterated their calls for a 10-year moratorium on all dam construction on the Mekong’s mainstream.
Numerous studies have underlined the threat the dam poses to Vietnam’s Mekong Delta (the world’s rice basket) which is already sinking and shrinking.
Activists say that although it is still not too late to halt the dams and devise a plan to promote the sustainable development of the Mekong, success in doing so would hinge on the political will of governments to make sound scientific decisions before forging ahead with any more dam construction.
If the dam-building binge continues unchecked, “Vietnam, as the most downstream country, has probably the most to lose, but millions of people in Cambodia Laos and Thailand are also at risk,” Goichot said.
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An Dien
Thanh Nien News

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Click on the link to get more news and video from original source:  http://asiancorrespondent.com/124211/laos-to-forge-ahead-with-controversial-mekong-dam/

Jun 27, 2014, 1:58 PM UTC

Serious concerns remain despite officials’ promise to hear input from locals and neighboring Mekong nations

Activists concerned with development along the Mekong River saw a small victory this week when the Supreme Administrative Court of Thailand agreed to take a case against Thai government agencies that purchased power from the Xayaburi dam in neighboring Laos. The Bangkok Post reported that the villagers who filed the complaints “accused the agencies of not complying with constitutional requirements before signing an agreement to purchase power from the Xayaburi dam.”

The villagers filed three orders with the court, according to the Bangkok Post: The first was to withdraw the cabinet resolution that allowed the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT) to purchase power from the Xayaburi Power Company; the second was to revoke the Power Purchase Agreement that was signed in 2011; and the third requested that the defendants “respect community rights and comply with the constitution by arranging transparent public hearings, as well as health and environmental impact assessments before signing power purchase.” The first two orders were dismissed, but the court supported the third.

Meanwhile, during a meeting of the Mekong River Commission Thursday Laos announced it will move ahead with plans on a second dam, the Don Sahong, despite concern over construction of that one as well. The Laos government will submit plans to the Mekong River Commission Council for review, but refused to halt construction, according to Asia Sentinel. Viraphonh Viravong, Laos’ vice chairman of Energy and Mines, said the country wants to cooperate with other Mekong nations and open its plans to them under a Prior Consultation process, according to the Bangkok Post.

Teerapong Pomun, director of the Living River Siam Association, which advises the Mekong River Commission, said the court’s decision will allow locals affected by the project to voice their concerns about the impact the dam will have on communities along the Mekong. Teerapong said the companies involved in the dam development need to educate local people and include them in discussions about how the dam will impact their livelihoods, and how to mitigate problems caused by the development. He said that environmental groups hope the Xayaburi court case can be used as a standard in the future, especially looking ahead to the ASEAN integration in 2015. Teerapong hopes Thailand will set a precedent for including locals in the research and planning process, and for mitigating negative construction impacts before building even begins.

The 1,285 mega-watt Kayaburi dam is being built in Xayaboury province in northern Laos. The Laos and Thai governments are cooperating on the project, with one of Thailand’s largest construction companies and several Thai banks (including the government-owned Krung Thai Bank) involved, according to International Rivers. The Kayaburi is one of 11 dams planned for the Mekong region and activists have expressed serious concerns about the detrimental impact these could have on the environment and local economies in Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam.

In its media kit on the Xayaburi dam, International Rivers states:

The costs of the Xayaburi Dam will be borne by the millions of people who live along the Mekong River, including in Laos and Thailand. Scientists expect that the dam will block critical fish migration routes
for between 23 to 100 species, including the iconic Mekong Giant Catfish. The dam would also destroy the river’s complex ecosystems that serve as important fish habitats. It would block the flow of sediments and nutrients, affecting agriculture as far downstream as the Mekong Delta in Vietnam. The Lao government will resettle at least 2,100 people, and 202,000 people living near the dam site will be directly affected. Even in the early stages of construction, many of these people already face threats to their food security.”

On June 25, the Save the Mekong coalition issued a statement imploring regional leaders to “cancel the planned projects, including the Xayaburi and Don Sahong dams, and ensure that future decisions over the shared river are based on scientific knowledge, transboundary impact assessment, and respect for the rights of all riparian nations and the public to a transparent and participatory decision-making process.”

Teerapong said that for him and other activists, the best case scenario is that projects like the Xayaburi will be halted completely until local people have had a real chance to participate. Barring that, he hopes to see locals involved in finding solutions to problems the dams create, such as land erosion and decreased fish population.

Teerapong said Thai and other regional leaders must consider the long-term effects of the dams, such as food security and conflict among the Mekong nations.

“It’s not only [a concern] for Thai and Laos people,” he said. “If it happens, what is the mitigation to solve the conflict? They have to let local people in the Mekong countries join the committee to solve the problems.”

The Mekong is a major food and income source for people in the Mekong nations, and environmentalists have expressed grave concerns about changing water levels and damage to fish populations. Teerapong said soil erosion is already happening and that the water levels will make it harder for farmers to irrigate their fields, costing them more money to raise their crops. He added that people in affected communities who may end up losing land and resources need to be fairly compensated, and that consequence should be taken into account before the dams are even built.

At the commission meeting, Laos officials “admitted that the Don Sahong channel is a key migratory route in the dry season, but there are several other channels that support fish migration,” according to the Bangkok Post. Viraphonh also said Laos will improve the channels in the Khone Falls to aid fish migration and work closely with local officials to promote fishery management, conservation and sustainable fishing, and broaden economic opportunities for fishing families.”

 

June 27, 2014

Laos Agrees to More Scrutiny on Mekong Dam After Calls for Delay

Bloomberg News

Laos Agrees to More Scrutiny on Mekong Dam After Calls for Delay

By Suttinee Yuvejwattana and Jason Folkmanis Jun 27, 2014 12:07 AM ET

Click on the link to get more news and video from original source:  http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-06-27/laos-agrees-to-more-scrutiny-on-mekong-dam-after-calls-for-delay.html

Laos agreed to open a proposed hydropower project along the Mekong River to further scrutiny from neighboring countries, after Vietnam previously called for a delay in developing the dam.

The Don Sahong hydropower project, which had been submitted under a procedure known as notification, will now instead undergo a process known as prior consultation, giving member nations the opportunity to address any harmful effects on the environment, according to the Mekong River Commission, which works with member nations to promote sustainable development of the Southeast Asian artery.

“This shows some willingness to work together with other member countries, but I’m not sure if one can read too much into the change in language,” said Phuong Nguyen, a research associate at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“This may be partly an attempt to work with other member countries and partly rhetorical, as long as Laos doesn’t have any other significant economic alternatives to dam-building,” Nguyen said in a telephone interview.

The Lao government said in a statement at a meeting yesterday of the commission’s council in Bangkok that it is committed to developing the Don Sahong project in a “responsible and sustainable manner” and that hydropower development is a top priority and key to stimulating the Lao economy.

‘On the Record’

“The change from notification to prior consultation means that everything we have put on the table will be put on the record,” the Lao government said in the statement. “The prior consultation process will formalize our exchange of ideas, and further demonstrates the Lao People’s Democratic Republic’s pledge to work openly and in close cooperation with member countries and development partners.”

Malaysia’s Mega First (MFCB) Corp. agreed in 2008 to build and operate Don Sahong and said in April that construction of the dam is expected to start this year and finish in 2019. Vietnam’s government in April called for a delay in construction until at least the end of 2015 and said this month it would “carefully study” the environmental impact of the Don Sahong project.

The prior consultation process “ allows the other member countries to bring forward in a more formal manner their concern,” said Hans Guttman, the chief executive of the Mekong River Commission secretariat, speaking to journalists late yesterday in Bangkok after a meeting of the commission. “Much like in the Xayaburi case, it is still a sovereign decision by a member country whether they go ahead with a project or not.”

Xayaburi Project

The Xayaburi hydropower project, which is in northwestern Laos, went through the prior consultation process before construction began. Thailand’s Ch. Karnchang (CK) Pcl, which has a stake in Xayaburi, said in March it has accelerated construction and there has been “substantial progress.”

In a 2011 filing on Xayaburi, Vietnam’s government said that the “limited timeframe of the prior consultation was not adequate to facilitate the achievement of the process’s objectives,” and asked for the project to be postponed for at least 10 years.

“Upstream hydropower development, especially the mainstream cascade, will present serious threats to the Mekong Delta, in particular saline intrusion, reduced fisheries and agricultural productivities, and degradation of bio-diversity,” Vietnam’s government said in the 2011 submission on Xayaburi.

Near Cambodia

The Don Sahong dam would be built in the far south of Laos, near the country’s border with Cambodia. The plan calls for the construction of a 260-megawatt power station, with the majority of energy generated to be exported and Thailand and Cambodia the primary target markets, according to a 2013 environmental impact assessment posted on the river commission’s website.

The commission will await a communication from Laos on switching to the prior consultation process, and a working group will be established with representatives from Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam, according to Guttman, who said the prior consultation procedures don’t clearly stipulate whether field work can proceed during the process and that member countries would likely raise the issue with Laos.

“It appears that the Lao government has half-blinked at the Bangkok meeting, but will be able to continue work on the Don Sahong site,” said Milton Osborne, a non-resident fellow at the Lowy Institute for International Policy in Sydney.

Thailand appreciates Laos’s decision to switch to the prior consultation process, which normally takes at least six months, said Chote Trachu, Thailand’s permanent secretary for natural resources and environment.

“Laos told us they won’t start” construction during the process, Chote told reporters in Bangkok late yesterday. “Still, there is no clear rule on that.”

To contact the reporters on this story: Suttinee Yuvejwattana in Bangkok at suttinee1@bloomberg.net; Jason Folkmanis in Ho Chi Minh City at folkmanis@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Tony Jordan at tjordan3@bloomberg.net

 

 

June 27, 2014

Laos to Hear Out Mekong Neighbors on Hydro Project

Don Sahong dam runs into trouble

Click on the link to get more news and video from original source: http://www.bangkokpost.com/news/local/417416/don-sahong-dam-runs-into-trouble

Thailand will reaffirm at the Mekong River Commission (MRC) meeting today that Laos’ Don Sahong hydro-power dam project must undergo a consultation process of member states before Vientiane can move ahead with its construction.

Chote Trachoo, permanent secretary of the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, who heads the Thai team at the meeting, said Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia are concerned the dam could have an adverse ecological impact on the Mekong River.

A transboundary impact assessment of the river and its surrounding environment will be needed before Laos can start the project, he said.

Don Sahong dam is Laos’ second planned hydro-power dam project after the controversial Xayaburi dam on the Mekong River which borders the four countries.

Laos last year signalled its intention to develop the Don Sahong hydro-power dam project in the Siphandone area in the southern part of the country through the MRC’s ordinary notification process, arguing the project will be built on one of the river tributaries and not on the main river itself.

However, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand disagreed with it, saying the project should undergo a more extensive “prior consultation process” by member states of the MRC, as the potential for impacts was significant.

An agreement could not be reached by the four countries and the issue has been left for the MRC council to decide.

Speculation is rife that a decision might be made at the MRC ministerial meeting in Bangkok today.

The 260 mega-watt Don Sahong dam project is about two times the size of Pak Moon dam in Thailand.

Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam are concerned the dam will block fish migration in the Mekong River, which is an important natural habitat for a large number of fish.

Some environmentalists said that the dam, if built, will destroy the ecological system of the Mekong River.

Pianporn Deetes, of the International Rivers group, said the MRC must protect the Mekong River’s conservation by considering the impacts which the dam will have on the river.

Any decision must be made based on a clear study on transboundary impacts and the people’s participation.

Meanwhile, Save the Mekong Coalition yesterday said immediate action should be taken to cancel construction of Xayaburi and Don Sahong dams.

Construction of Xayaburi dam is already underway.

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Laos to Hear Out Mekong Neighbors on Hydro Project

By Steve Herman

June 26, 2014 2:38 PM

Click on the link to get more news and video from original source: http://www.voanews.com/content/article/1945700.html

Laos has informed members of the Mekong River Commission (MRC) that it intends to move ahead with construction of the 260-megawatt Don Sahong dam but consider project modifications based on concerns of neighboring countries.

In a change of stance, Lao government officials recently said they will cooperate with the MRC and development partners before advancing the large and controversial project.

Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia have raised concerns about the environmental impact of the project.

Laos previously insisted the hydroelectric dam’s placement — on a braid of the Mekong and not on the mainstream — meant the project proposal needn’t comply with the commission’s formal prior-consultation process.

MRC Chief Executive Officer Hans Guttman told reporters his secretariat will facilitate the process, but that Laos could simply ignore objections because “there is no formal democratic process.”

“It does allow for a more formal consideration of the potential consequences and allows the Lao government then to take that in consideration if that would be the case,” he said. “But the process in itself does not necessarily say that we vote on the issue in the end.”

Chote Trachu, Thailand’s permanent secretary at the Ministry of Natural Resources, says his government appreciates Laos’s shift to more inclusive consultation process.

The International Rivers non-governmental organization calls the change “an opportunity for neighboring countries to have a voice in whether or not the project is built.” But in the meantime, the group says, Laos “should stop all construction at the site of the Don Sahong dam” so a true project assessment can be conducted.

Many environmental groups contend the hydroelectric project would destroy the river’s ecological system by blocking migration of fish.

Laos says it will continue work already started to improve channels in the project area to aid fish migration.

There is also substantial concern about the construction already progressing on another Mekong dam in Laos: The Xayaburi dam, financed by commercial banks in Thailand, is intended to produce about 1,300 megawatts of electricity, nearly all of it to be purchased by the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT).

Last week, a consortium of conservation groups, including the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF), sent a letter to the junta which now holds all executive and legislative power in Thailand asking for it to suspend or cancel the power purchase agreement for the dam.

The appeal calls the project “one of the potentially most damaging dams currently under construction anywhere in the world,” and one that “constitutes the greatest trans-boundary threat to date [regarding] food security, sustainable development and regional cooperation in the lower Mekong River basin.”

Cambodia and Vietnam have also objected to the Xayaburi project.

Thailand’s Supreme Administrative Court this week agreed to consider a lawsuit against the dam’s power purchase agreement.

International Rivers on Thursday hailed the court’s move as “a clear indication of the adverse trans-boundary impact the Xayaburi Dam is likely to have on the Mekong River’s ecosystem and people, despite earlier claims made by the Lao government that the project would be sustainable.”

The Mekong is the longest river in Southeast Asia, originating in the mountains of Qinghai province in China.

The lower Mekong basin supports nearly 60 million people. The river’s fish are an important source of protein consumed by that population. And the sediment and nutrients at the river’s mouth are critical for Vietnam’s productivity in the delta.

There are plans to construct a total of 12 hydro-power projects on the lower sections of the Mekong’s mainstream. Proponents say the projects are critical for economic development in the booming region and will help alleviate poverty.

 

A veteran journalist, Steven L Herman is the Voice of America Asia correspondent.
June 25, 2014

Save the Mekong Coalition Calls on Prime Ministers to Cancel Mekong Mainstream Dams

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

Wednesday June 25, 2014

Save the Mekong Coalition Calls on Prime Ministers to Cancel Mekong Mainstream Dams:

Protect Food Security and People from Transboundary Impacts

Bangkok, Thailand - As Mekong ministers meet for the 20th Meeting of the Mekong River Commission Council in Bangkok tomorrow, the Save the Mekong coalition has issued a statement calling upon the Prime Ministers of Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand and Vietnam to work together to address the threat posed by a proposed cascade of eleven Mekong mainstream dams to the region’s food security and people. The coalition requests that immediate action be taken to cancel the planned mainstream dams, including the Xayaburi and Don Sahong dams, which are already under construction. And to ensure that future decisions over the shared river are based on scientific knowledge, transboundary impact assessment, robust consultations, and respect for the rights of all riparian nations and the public to a transparent and participatory decision-making process.

“The Mekong mainstream dams are gambling with our food security, by irreversibly harming vital fish migrations and blocking sediment needed for our floodplains,” said Youk Senglong from the Fisheries Action Coalition Team in Cambodia. “It’s time the Mekong leaders recognize the gravity of the situation and take action. Hundreds of thousands of people in the region and internationally have been demanding the dams to be cancelled through petitions, letters and protests.”

“The Cambodian and Vietnamese governments have repeatedly demanded that the Mekong mainstream dams’ transboundary impacts are studied and that decisions over the mainstream dams are deferred ten years,” said Nguy Thi Khanh from GreenID and the Vietnam River Network. “Yet, Laos has continued to unilaterally push forward with the Xayaburi and Don Sahong dams, without adequate knowledge of the risks and a meaningful consultation process. At the same time Thailand’s companies and banks are profiting at the expense of regional cooperation and millions of people in the region who depend on the Mekong River for their food and livelihood.”

At Thursday’s meeting, the Mekong River Commission (MRC)’s Council is scheduled to make a decision whether the Don Sahong Dam in Lao PDR must undergo prior consultation as requested by Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam, after failing to reach agreement during a MRC’s Special Joint Committee Meeting in January. As the second Mekong mainstream dam, the Don Sahong Dam, is already following the dangerous precedent set by the Xayaburi Dam, in which project construction began while MRC deliberations were underway and unilateral action has triumphed over regional interest. Furthermore in both projects transboundary impact assessments have been absent, unproven technologies are being proposed as mitigation solutions, and attempts to follow the MRC’s procedures have exposed significant ambiguities and problems.

“Its clear the MRC has failed to guarantee a balanced and fair decision-making process, in which upstream and downstream considerations are considered.  It’s a broken process in desperate need of reform, during a time when the Mekong River’s health and productivity is at stake,” said Tek Vannara from NGO Forum on Cambodia. “Decisions over the future of the Mekong River cannot continue to be made on a project-by-project basis without consideration of the cumulative transboundary impacts or the opinion of the millions of riparian people who rely upon the river.”

“It’s time to cancel the Mekong mainstream dams and protect the river for present and future generations.  Thailand doesn’t need electricity from destructive dams that will undermine our development,” said Terrapong Pomun of Living River Siam in Thailand. “We urge the Lao government to immediately stop all construction of the Xayaburi and Don Sahong projects, for Thailand to cancel the Xayaburi Dam’s power purchase agreement, and for the riparian rights of neighboring countries and all peoples dependent on the river to be respected. As a first step towards improved Mekong cooperation, the Don Sahong Dam must undergo prior consultation.”

Download the Save the Mekong statement in English, Thai, Lao, Khmer and Vietnamese

Media Contacts:

In Cambodia:

In Thailand:

In Vietnam:

  • Mrs. Nguy Thi Khanh – Director, Green Innovation and Development Center (GreenID) – Policy Advocacy Coordinator – Vietnam River Network (VRN), E: khanhgreenid@gmail.com, T: +84 912713229.
  • Ms. Lam Thi Thu Suu, Director, Centre for Social Research and Development (CSRD), Coordinator-Vietnam River Network (VRN), E: csrd.hue@gmail.com, T: +84 543837714.

Regional/International:

For more information about the Save the Mekong coalition visit: www.savethemekong.org

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