Archive for ‘Xayaburi Dam’

September 20, 2014

Green Groups Tell Mekong Leaders Lao Dam Evaluation Process Flawed

Green Groups Tell Mekong Leaders Lao Dam Evaluation Process Flawed


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Construction work begins on the Xayaburi dam on the Mekong River in northern Laos, Jan. 2014.

Nearly 50 environmental groups have written to the leaders of countries along the Mekong River to revamp a regional official evaluation process for the controversial Don Sahong dam project in southern Laos, saying the current mechanism is flawed.

Their letter to the prime ministers of Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and Thailand said the concerns of local communities impacted by the project are not being included as required by the Procedures for Notification, Prior Consultation and Agreement (PNPCA) for hydropower projects in the Mekong River Commission (MRC).

The PNPCA requires transboundary impact assessments and discussions among member countries, as outlined in a 1995 agreement that led to the formation of the MRC, which supervises development along Southeast Asia’s artery.

The Sept. 10 letter from 45 groups, including U.S.-based International Rivers, Japan’s Mekong Watch, Thailand’s Northern River Basins Network, and Vietnam Rivers Network, was sent more than two months after Lao authorities decided to open the 260-megawatt Don Sahong project to consultations and scrutiny among MRC members.

The Lao authorities said it would suspend construction of the project, the second dam to be built on the Mekong after the Xayaburi dam, but the developer, Malaysia’s Mega First Corporation Berhad, said work was continuing.

Regional threat

The Xayaburi and Don Sahong dams pose a regional security threat for the 60 million-some people in Southeast Asia who rely on fish and other products from the Mekong for their nutrition and livelihoods, environmental and conservation groups say.

“We are concerned that, as they stand, the PNPCA procedures cannot allow for a legitimate and participatory consultation process for the Don Sahong dam, and the project is set to follow the same destructive path of the Xayaburi dam, bringing further severe impacts to the Mekong and its people,” the letter said.

It said the prior consultation process for the Xayaburi dam, which is under construction, had been a “failure.”

“The limited stakeholder consultation both in number of participants and areas involved excluded many critical voices, including those of local communities in Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam,” the letter said.

“The voices of communities must be the priority in the process related to the development of dams on the Mekong River,” it said.

The letter also said many studies indicate that if the Don Sahong dam is built, it will have “severe impacts on Mekong fish and their migration throughout the Lower Mekong River Basin.”

“This threatens the food security and livelihoods of millions of people as well as the economic and political stability of the region, due to increased tension between governments over the failures of regional cooperation,” the letter said.

“As the MRC’s mandate is not for local Mekong communities, there needs to be clarification on how local communities affected by Mekong dams can meaningfully participate in the decision-making process and how their participation will inform decisions made about whether or not a project will proceed,” it said.

“The rights of communities must be recognized.”

United they stand

Following the letter’s issuance, fishermen and villagers from Cambodia’s Tonle Sap and along the Mekong joined representatives from Thailand’s Pak Mun dam area at a conference in Bangkok this week to announce their opposition to dam construction in the Mekong Basin as well as support for including locals’ voices in transboundary impact reviews.

Residents of the Pak Mun dam area, situated nearly six kilometers (about 3.5 miles) west of the confluence of the Mun and Mekong rivers, must negotiate every year to have the dam gates opened to allow in fish from further upstream, said Somphong Viengchan, an activist who represents fisherman from the Ubon Ratchathani province in northeastern Thailand.

“If the Don Sahong is built, there won’t be fish to return to the Mun River anymore,” she said, according to a press release issued after the conference.

Fishermen from Cambodia and Thailand threw their support behind Laotians in riparian communities who want their views included in ecological impact reviews of dam projects, including Don Sahong.

A separate statement issued by the fishing community networks said the Lao government must immediately revise the decision to build the Xayaburi and Don Sahong dams and allow a cross-border study that would involve all people from Mekong communities.

“We insist that any act to prevent the people in Mekong countries from knowing about the dams or prohibiting them from raising their voices against the projects is a complete violation of human rights and our rights,” said a joint statement issued by the fishermen.

As the Lao government already has made the decision to build the Don Sahong dam, Laotians can’t do anything about it, Viengchan said at the conference.

Laotians risk arrest if they voice opposition to hydropower projects, she said.

“It is impossible for them to come out and exercise their rights,” Viengchan said. “Therefore, after the discussion, we six Thai Mekong riparian provinces have to do something to give voice via the Thai government to the Lao government about the [dam project’s] transboundary impact.”

International Rivers says the Don Sahong dam will block fish migration routes, destroy the Mekong River ecosystem and cut off the flow of sediments and nutrients.

Reported by RFA’s Lao Service. Translated by Bounchanh Mouangkham. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.



August 24, 2014

Laos-located Don Sahong hydropower project impacts discussed

Laos-located Don Sahong hydropower project impacts discussed


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VietNamNet BridgeHydropower projects on the Mekong River, including the Don Sahong in Laos, will pose a threat to the balance of water, fish, and alluvium resources, while harming the ecosystem in the Mekong Delta region, said an expert on climate change.

Prof. Doc. Le Anh Tuan from the Research Institute for Climate Change at Can Tho University, pointed out that Don Sahong, the second hydropower project to be developed on a section of the Mekong River running though Laos, could lead to an extinction of catfish and other migrant fish species in the river.

It would also remarkably reduce the number of endemic fish in downstream areas, Tuan said at a conference held on August 21 in the Mekong Delta city of Can Tho to prepare ideas to be contributed to the proposed Don Sahong hydropower project on the mainstream of the Mekong River.

Meanwhile, Nguyen Thanh Hai, office manager of the Steering Committee for Southwestern Region, said if all 12 hydropower projects are developed upstream, 55 percent of the Mekong River will become large reservoirs. Meanwhile, downstream areas, especially the Mekong Delta region, would suffer from environmental risks, he said.

At the same time, climate change and sea level rise would lead to salinity intrusion in most of the farming areas in the region, affecting the livelihood of about 30 million residents, he said.

Nguyen Huu Thien, an independent specialist, said the whole region would be affected by decisions on hydropower development in the Mekong River – one of the greatest rivers in the world possessing a rich resource that feeds millions of people.

He emphasised that the decisions must base on thorough, quality researches with consultations from governments and communities affected.

During the event, scientists updated the development process of hydropower projects on the Mekong River mainstream, assessment of environment impact of Don Sahong dam, and consultation process for Xayabury hydropower project.

Participants discussed ways to organise the consultations on Don Sahong project and how Mekong Delta localities engage in the process in a most effective manner.

The Mekong River is the world’s 12th longest river. It runs through China, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam.


August 24, 2014

ADB: Hydropower project in Laos secures $217m loan

Hydropower project in Laos secures $217m loan


Infrastructure & Generation | Aug 24, 2014

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Copyright: Thinkstock

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved funding worth $217 million for a 290MW hydropower project in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR).

The bulk of the electricity generated by Nam Ngiep 1 will be delivered to neighbouring Thailand, which relies heavily on natural gas. The project is expected to cut around 500,000 tons of carbon emissions in Thailand every year.

The Lao PDR has a hydropower potential of 20,000MW, according to the ADB.

Kurumi Fukaya, Lead Investment Specialist at ADB’s Private Sector Operations Department said: “The project is a win-win for the Lao PDR and Thailand. It will generate revenues for the Lao PDR’s economic and social development and provide Thailand with cost-efficient power.”

The facility is expected to start producing electricity in 2019.


World Bank supports hydropower sector in Laos


Aug 20, 2014

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Vientiane, capital of Laos. Copyright: Thinkstock
Vientiane, capital of Laos. Copyright: Thinkstock

The World Bank is supporting the renewable energy industry in Laos by providing a multi-million pound loan.

It has signed an agreement with the Government of Loa People’s Democratic Republic (PDR) for new financing worth $17.8 million (£10.7m) to help the nation manage its hydropower and mining resources.

The cash will be used for the ‘Technical Assistance for Capacity Building in the Hydropower and Mining Sectors Project’ in Laos, which is expected to help the nation meet the power and hydro demands of its neighbouring countries.

Thipphakone Chanthavongsa, Vice Minister of Finance of the Lao PDR said: “The projects will contribute to the socioeconomic development and environmental sustainability of Lao PDR.”


August 24, 2014

Villagers call for say in Laos dam project

Villagers call for say in Laos dam project

Published: 23 Aug 2014 at 06.00

News Writer: Paritta Wangkiat

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Northern and northeastern villagers living along the Mekong River have called on the government to include them in the “prior consultation” process for the proposed Don Sahong dam in Laos. The villagers from eight provinces along the Mekong River, together with conservationists looking to preserve natural resources and Mekong-Lanna culture, submitted an open letter to the natural resources and environmental permanent secretary yesterday to express their concerns over the Don Sahong project.

“We’ve not yet heard anything about the project since it was agreed,” said Niwat Roykaew, a villager representative.

“Many villagers are concerned because they fear being excluded from participating in the decision-making process,” he said.

In June, Laos’ Deputy Minister of Energy and Mines Viraphonh Viravong told a Mekong River Commission (MRC) meeting in Thailand that the Don Sahong project would be submitted for six months of prior consultation among the lower Mekong countries.

Laos had bowed to pressure to do so from the governments of Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam.

Mr Niwat said villagers feared events surrounding Laos’ controversial Xayaburi dam project would repeat themselves.

Villagers were told about the Xayaburi dam’s construction retrospectively and there was no mention of the dam’s environmental impacts, he added.

“That was not consultation, but notification,” he said. In their letter submitted yesterday, the villagers called for the Department of Water Resources (DWR), which provides secretarial services for the Thai MRC, to hold public consultations in all eight provinces with at least one to take place in a district adjacent to the Mekong River.

These consultations must be announced in advance by the government and by local administrative organisations on radio and in local newspapers to allow stakeholders to participate in them. Information from Laos on the Don Sahong project must be translated and provided to locals at least 30 days before the consultations, the letter said.

The network also demanded the DWR cancel studies into and monitoring of cross-border environmental impacts from hydroelectric power projects on the Mekong because they lacked local participation.

Laos signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Malaysian firm Mega First Corporation Berhad for the Don Sahong hydroelectric dam project in 2006, the second of nine proposed by Laos for the lower Mekong.

The first was for the Xayaburi dam. In June, the Supreme Administrative Court accepted a case brought by 37 villagers living along the Mekong River against Thai government agencies buying power from the Xayaburi dam.


August 19, 2014

ADB again under fire over safeguards in Laos dam


ADB again under fire over safeguards in Laos dam

By Lean Alfred Santos@DevexLeanAS19 August 2014

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A Hmong family living along the Nam Ngiep. An energy project threatens to displace indigenous people and destroy the environment in the area. Photo by: International Rivers / CC BY-NC-SA

The Asian Development Bank is again under fire over alleged safeguards violations, this time about a hydropower project in Laos that two NGOs claim will displace indigenous people, affect livelihoods and destroy the area’s immediate environment.

ADB decided last week to give the green light to a $50 million loan for the dam in Nam Ngiep River in central Laos, which is expected to support the sustainable development of hydropower resources in the landlocked country and provide a reliable and affordable access to energy sources in neighboring Thailand. This, according to a Devex early intelligence report, would provide an increase in power generation capacity in Laos and improve the power trading between Laos and Thailand, as well as improve the integrated water resource management in the river basin.

The bank’s approval for the loan was however met with strong opposition from International Rivers and Mekong Watch, two international advocacy groups that argue the dam will not bring sustainable development to the affected communities.

“Even though the project has been approved, it should be a point of warning. ADB has a number of instances of investing in power projects [that] are not sustainable because of the effects to people,” Tanya Lee, International Rivers program director for Laos, told Devex. “In Laos, the way the development is being distributed, it is not possible for people to benefit equally.”

The project, worth around $900 million — with social and environmental costs budgeted at $52.5 million — is expected to generate a total of 290 megawatts of power, 93.7 percent of which will be exported to neighboring Thailand, according to official documents. The remaining 18 MW of power will be used for domestic on-grid electrification. Electricity production is expected to start at the beginning of 2019. Apart from ADB, the other financiers are the Japan Bank for International Cooperation and several commercial banks.

About 3,000 individuals from neighboring Hmong and Khmu ethnic communities are expected to be affected by the dam’s construction and operations. International Rivers and Mekong Watch assure these people “will have to involuntarily resettle to make way for the project.”

This is not the first time ADB has been under intense scrutiny over a development project’s safeguard issues.

In February, Devex reported about how the bank admitted its own mistakes regarding a controversial railway project in Cambodia denounced by local and international advocacy groups that accused ADB of not adhering to its environmental, social and safety standards. Even the bank’s internal watchdog pointed out the lapse in the process at the time.

Amid recent debate over World Bank safeguard policies and procedures, both cases underscore the importance of traditional development leaders like ADB to implement environmental, social and safety standards and thus demonstrate their commitment to accountability and integrity in their projects.


International Rivers and Mekong Watch mentioned issues of lack of proper consultation, information inculcation and the cultural aspect of obedience of affected communities.

“When I interviewed villagers who will be affected by the proposed [project], they said they do not have enough information about the impacts,” Lee told Devex, adding that many agreed to give their approval because they fear “repercussions.”

She added: “They spoke about the presence of ‘authorities.’ They understand that the dam project is a priority of the government … There’s a feeling of pressure and in the context of Laos, people are concerned about repercussions.”

ADB refuted this, arguing both the bank and the power company involved conducted “more than 50 consultations at various levels” with the people in a “meaningful, transparent, participatory and inclusive manner.”

“ADB is satisfied that the process and results comply with [the bank’s] safeguard policy,” Kurumi Fukaya, ADB lead investment specialist for the project, told Devex. “We noted that the affected people are speaking freely without any fear and in fact, [the power company’s] transparency in explaining the project’s environmental and social impacts and its management’s plans solicited frank and serious discussions by the affected people.”

Fukaya further added that the views of stakeholders were considered in the process that resulted to changes in several project designs, including the location of the resettlement site, alterations to livelihood programs, and reduction of the maximum reservoir level of the dam on top of a grievance mechanism put up from the community level to resolve conflicts and disagreements.

Mind shift?

Other problems related to the project include forced resettlement, compensation and environmental safeguards.

While several studies and impact assessments have been made by stakeholders like the power company, it’s not yet clear whether these documents are comprehensive enough — and implementable — to cover all bases.

“ADB management will have to have a much higher recognition as to how difficult [it is] to carry out a project like this in compliance with safeguard policies,” Toshiyuki Doi, Mekong Watch’s senior adviser, told Devex.

Some of the environmental concerns are waste water management, greenhouse gas emissions and biomass removal, which the bank approved with the satisfaction of having “plans in place” after conducting due diligence.

ADB’s Fukuya said the affected people are already included within the scope of the bank’s resettlement and ethnic development plan, and will receive “compensation, replacement land, and support” — something that could make or break the affected communities’ development future.

Doi recalled the Cambodia railway case, echoing what several local groups back then were suggesting the need for a “mind shift” in the way the bank approves and implements future development projects.

“[The need for] ADB management to have a ‘mind shift’ that resettlement is not just moving from one place to another. It should be at the center of people’s development, and people should be at the center of it,” Doi said, adding that in his opinion, the way the Laos case is going, “I don’t think minds have changed or shifted.”

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About the author

Lean santos 400x400

Lean Alfred SantosFollow @DevexLeanAS


Lean Alfred Santos is a Devex staff writer focusing on the development community in Asia-Pacific, including major players such as the Asian Development Bank and AusAID. Prior to joining Devex, he covered Philippine and international business and economic news, sports and politics. Lean is based in Manila.


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