Archive for August 4th, 2011

August 4, 2011

Laos Claims Regional Consultation Process for Xayaburi Dam Complete


Media Kit on the Mekong’s Xayaburi Dam

Laos Claims Regional Consultation Process for Xayaburi Dam Complete

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Laos appears to have defied its neighbors in a move to press ahead with the proposed Xayaburi Dam on the Mekong Mainstream, despite concerns raised by neighboring governments and regional civil society groups. A letter leaked to International Rivers, dated June 8, 2011, reveals that the Lao Government has informed the Xayaburi project developer Ch. Karnchang that the Mekong River Commission’s (MRC) regional decision-making process is now complete, presumably giving Ch. Karnchang the green light to proceed with the project.

The MRC itself, however, is yet to officially announce the regional process as complete. On April 19, 2011, government representatives from Laos, Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia met to conclude the regional decision-making process on the Xayaburi Dam. At this meeting the four lower Mekong Basin countries agreed to defer a decision on the project to a Ministerial level meeting, scheduled to take place sometime in October or November. Whilst Laos proposed to proceed with the dam at the April 19 meeting, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam called for an extension to the decision-making process, citing concerns about transboundary impacts and knowledge gaps that require further study and public consultation.

Since plans for the Xayaburi Dam were revived in May 2007, civil society groups and the wider public in the Mekong Region and around the world have called for the project’s cancellation. Despite these requests, in September 2010, the Xayaburi Dam was the first of eleven proposed dams for the Lower Mekong River’s mainstream to be submitted for approval by the region’s governments through a regional decision-making process called the “Procedures for Notification, Prior Consultation and Agreement” (PNPCA) hosted by the Mekong River Commission (MRC). This process has been severely flawed and the project’s Environmental Impact Assessment of extremely poor quality.

The Xayaburi Dam is the single greatest threat currently facing the Mekong River and its people. The project would resettle around 2,100 people and directly affect a further 202,000 people living near the dam due to impacts on the river’s ecology and fisheries.  The dam threatens 41 fish species with extinction, including the critically endangered Mekong Giant Catfish.  A further 23 to 100 migratory species will also be threatened. Due to the devastating and irreversible risks the dam poses to the river’s ecosystem and biodiversity, impacts on local livelihoods and threat to food security, International Rivers believes that the project should be canceled.

For further key information by International Rivers see:

Key information by the Mekong River Commission:

Selected communication with regional decision-makers include:

  • Letter from 263 NGOs to Prime Ministers of Lao PDR and Thailand calling for cancellation of Xayaburi Dam (21 March 2011) [Read the press release and letter]
  • “Save the Mekong” letter sent to the MRC’s Council calling for halt to Xayaburi Dam PNPCA process (25 January 2011) [Read the letter]
  • “Save the Mekong” letter to MRC calling for cancellation of Xayaburi Dam and Halt to the PNPCA Process (13 October 2010) [Read the letter] [Read the MRC’s response]
  • “Save the Mekong” letter to the Prime Ministers of Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam delivering 23,110 signature petition calling for cancellation of Mekong mainstream dams (19 October 2009). [Read the letters]
  • “Save the Mekong” coalition meeting with H.E. Abhisit Vejjajiva , Prime Minister of Thailand on 18 June 2009 in Bangkok, Thailand

View further recent letters by civil society groups and newspaper articles at

Contact us:

Ame Trandem
+1 510-848-1155

Pianporn Deetes
+66 814 220 111

Aviva Imhof
+1 510 848 1155

August 4, 2011

Illegal Construction on the Xayaburi Dam Forges Ahead

For immediate release

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Ame Trandem, Southeast Asia Program Director, International Rivers: +66 868822426,
Pianporn Deetes, Thailand Campaign Coordinator, International Rivers: +66 814220111,

Illegal Construction on the Xayaburi Dam Forges Ahead

Lao PDR Unilaterally Moves Forward In Spite of Commitments to Temporarily Suspend the Project

Bangkok, Thailand: A field visit to the site of the proposed Xayaburi Dam has revealed that construction on the dam’s access road and work-camp is rapidly forging ahead, in spite of commitments by the Government of Laos to temporarily suspend the project. The trip to the Xayaburi Dam site on July 23rd, 2011 revealed that a substantial construction camp has been established near Ban Talan village with at least a few hundred workers. An access road leading down to the dam site was also under construction and some land has been cleared without compensation provided to the owners.

“The Government of Laos appears to be set on unilaterally moving forward with the Xayaburi Dam in violation of international law and its commitments under the 1995 Mekong Agreement,” said Ame Trandem, Southeast Asia Program Director for International Rivers. “By building this dam, Laos is disregarding its regional commitments and robbing the future of millions of people in the region who rely upon the river for their livelihood and food security.”

Representatives from the four lower Mekong countries had originally been scheduled to meet in Phnom Penh this Friday, in order to discuss the next steps in the Mekong River Commission’s (MRC) Procedures for Notification, Prior Consultation and Agreement (PNPCA), the regional decision-making process for the Xayaburi Dam. On Tuesday, the meeting was postponed indefinitely without explanation.

As input into the future meeting, International Rivers has submitted to the MRC and regional governments a legal opinion by the US law firm Perkins Coie, which states that “The Mekong Agreement precludes any unilateral decisions that threatens the river’s ecological balance or impacts the needs of people who rely on it.” The opinion concludes “Lao PDR’s unilateral action to prematurely terminate the PNPCA process, without allowing its neighbor countries to properly conclude that process, violates the Mekong Agreement, and therefore international law.”

“This hypocrisy needs to stop,” said Pianporn Deetes, Thailand Campaign Coordinator for International Rivers. “If Laos is committed to cooperating with its neighbors on the project, then the government should stop all construction activities and start dealing honestly and truthfully.”

Less than two weeks ago, the Government of Laos was reported to have confirmed to a top U.S. diplomat for Asia that the dam’s suspension would continue, which was welcomed as a “forward-leaning” decision by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. This came after Laos attempted to call the regional decision-making process complete at an Informal Donor Meeting of the Mekong River Commission, held on 24 June in Phnom Penh, despite calls from its neighbors for further study and consultation.

Only a few months earlier, on 19 April, the four governments had reached an agreement to defer the decision over the Xayaburi Dam for a future Ministerial-level meeting, which is expected to occur in October or November.

Despite the Xayaburi Dam’s construction forging ahead, the next steps in the regional decision-making process and how the knowledge gaps identified by the MRC’s Technical Review of the project will be filled remain unclear.

The Xayaburi Dam is currently the single greatest threat facing the Mekong River and its people. The project would forcibly resettle over 2,100 people and directly affect over 202,000 people. It threatens the extinction of approximately 41 fish species, including the critically endangered Mekong Giant Catfish and an additional 23 to 100 migratory fish species would be threatened through a blocked fish migration route. These impacts in turn will affect the livelihoods and food security of millions of people in the region.

Vietnamese experts at a seminar last week presented research findings indicating that all 12 dams planned for the Mekong Mainstream could result in one billion dollars in annual losses to Vietnam, due to impacts on the rich and productive Mekong Delta.

Attn Editors: High resolution photos available upon request.

More Information:

International Rivers is an environmental and human rights organization with staff in four continents. For over two decades, International Rivers has been at the heart of the global struggle to protect rivers and the rights of communities that depend on them.

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