Posts tagged ‘dam’

April 10, 2014

Vietnam: Laos should consult Mekong countries before building dam

Vietnam:  Laos should consult Mekong countries before building dam

Monday, April 07, 2014 08:18
Vietnam and Cambodia have once again asked Laos to consult with countries in the Mekong River Commission (MRC), a consultative body that works with lower basin countries – Thailand, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia – before moving forward with the potentiallyriskyDonSahong hydropower project.Minister of Natural Resources and EnvironmentNguyenMinhQuang told a press conference wrapping up the 2nd MRC Summit in HoChiMinh City Saturday that Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung and his Cambodian counterpart Hun Sen had made the request while meeting with LaosPMThongsingThammavong,TuoiTre (Youth) Newspaper reported.Quang said the two countries asked Laos to wait for the result of a Vietnam-initiated study on the impacts of the planned project on the main current of the Mekong River, scheduled to be released next year, before making its move.“We hoped Laos would also pay attention to the opinions of other countries in the region on the matter as well,” he said.

Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Ha Kim Ngoc told the press conference Vietnam considered the development of Laos as its own development, but both Vietnam and Cambodia agreed that hydropower development on the Mekong River’s main current must comply with MRC regulations so as not to badly affect countries on the lower basin.

In his speech at the plenary session of the 2nd MRC Summit, Dung said the Mekong River has become one of the five largest rivers in the world with the most serious reductions in flows recently.

The annual average flow of the Mekong River at Chieng Sen, the gateway to the Lower Mekong Basin, has been reduced by 10 percent over the past 30 years, he said.

“In Vientiane, Laos, the Mekong River has dried out to the point the people can walk across the river in the dry season.

“Meanwhile, in Thailand, the once calm Chao Phraya River inflicted huge floods of a national disaster level for months in 2011.

“In the Mekong River Delta of Vietnam, salinity intrusion happened for the first time in the areas of Tan Chau and Chau Doc of An Giang Province.”

According to Dung, to address such challenges, national efforts are not enough. Regional cooperation must be strengthened, particularly among the riparian countries, both upper and lower, through multilateral and sub-regional mechanisms such as the MRC, he said.

Last year, Vietnam also called on Laos to honor its pledge to consult with its neighbors before moving forward with the Don Sahong project.
The Vietnam National Mekong Committee sent a letter demanding Laos honor regional cooperation pledged by the countries in the 1995 Mekong Agreement. According to some sources, Cambodian and Thai committees also sent separate letters to Laos.

“We suggest that the proposed project needs to be considered under the prior consultation process,” states Vietnam’s letter.

Under the agreement, regulated by the MRC, a dam developer must notify or consult with member countries before beginning construction.
In October 2013, Laos notified the MRC of its intent to build the 260-megawatt Don Sahong dam, despite calls from foreign donors to consult neighbors that face a risk of depleted fish stocks and damaged livelihoods. Experts have also voiced concerns over the bad impacts of the project on the main current of the river.

Laos planned to start work on the project later this year.

The dam, to be developed by Malaysia’s Mega First Corporation Bhd, is the second of 11 dams planned by Laos along its stretch of the 4,900 km (3,044 mile) Mekong.

Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand have repeatedly voiced concerns about Laos failing to honor a consultation agreement on a bigger project, the US$3.5 billion, 1,260 megawatt Xayaburi dam for which it held a groundbreaking ceremony in late 2012.

Lao media reported April 3 that the project was 23 percent finished and is expected to be operational in 2019.

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Thanh Nien News

April 19, 2012

Thai firm says Xayaburi project has begun

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Shane Worrell

Thursday, 19 April 2012

The controversial Xayaburi hydro-electric dam project in northern Laos may have already begun, despite countries, including Cambodia, requesting further studies to assess possible negative effects on Lower Mekong communities.

According to a statement released on its website late on Tuesday, Thai development firm Ch.Karnchang said it was due to begin building the dam on March 15 after finalising a construction contract with the Xayaburi Power Company.

In the document, first sent to the Stock Exchange of Thailand, Ch.Karnchang says its subsidiary Karnchang (Lao) will build the 1,260-megawatt dam on the Lower Mekong River over the course of eight years.

Shares in the company rose as much as 2.5 per cent after it announced the 74 billion baht (US $2.4 billion) contract, Reuters reported on Tuesday.

Surasak Glahan, communications officer with the Mekong River Commission secretariat in Vientiane, Laos, said member nations Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam had agreed in principle in December that further studies into the impact of the dam were needed before it could be built.

“However, such a consensus does not mention that the project should be delayed,” he said. “We will, however, seek clarification from Lao PDR on the reported scheduled construction of the project.”

Laos and Thailand were yet to agree to requests to Japan to fund the called-for studies, the Post reported in February.

Ame Trandem, Southeast Asia program director at International Rivers, said construction should halt until the study was finished.

“As soon as you start construction on the Mekong, you are affecting the biodiversity of the river and species. Any construction is going to undermine the quality of future studies,” she said.

Ms Trandem predicted the issue of funding would be raised at the Japan-Mekong summit this weekend.

“The study would not just look at the impacts of the Xayaburi dam but of all mainstream Mekong dams,” she said, adding that Ch. Karnchang owned a majority of shares in Xayaburi Power Company, meaning it had essentially announced signing a contract “with itself”.

Te Navuth, secretary-general of the Cambodia National Mekong Committee, said he would be “disappointed” if construction had begun.

“I believe there isn’t any groundwork going on,” he said. “However, we tried to get official information from the Lao government, but we couldn’t get any.

“The four countries have agreed in principle to carry out additional studies and have asked the government of Japan and other partners to assist,” he said.

“Until Laos and neighbouring countries are happy with the result, nothing will happen,” Te Navuth said, echoing similar comments he made after the meeting in December.

Cambodia’s WWF country director Seng Teak, however, said land clearing and road development was already occurring in and around the Xayaburi site.

“WWF would be concerned if the steps agreed to by the MRC and ministers in December are not followed,” he said.

Seng Teak said a recent review of the dam development had identified “uncertainties and weaknesses” with the proposed fish passes.

“Any dam built on the lower Mekong River mainstream risks blocking the migration route and survival of critical fish species, such as the Mekong giant catfish,” he said.

“The recent review of the project also confirmed the Xayaburi project will block part of the sediment flow and that important gaps in knowledge concerning the sediment aspects remain.”

This sediment, he said, was essential for maintaining balance in the Mekong ecosystem – which many Cambodians rely on for their livelihood.

“WWF urges governments to defer a decision on any dam projects on the Mekong mainstream for at least 10 years until proper risk assessment is conducted.”

Council of Ministers’ Press and Quick Reaction Unit
spokesman Ek Tha said that the government has urged stakeholders to ensure projects on the Mekong River did not have negative environmental impacts.

“As you know, countries in the Lower Mekong have 60 million people living in the region,” he said. “I urge policymakers to consult with the stakeholders and environment groups to make sure the project will not have negative impacts or look at alternative investments.

“I want them to think of 500 to 1,000 years from now. Put your children and grandchildren ahead of us.”

The Laos government could not be reached for comment.

Ch.Karnchang did not respond to emails from the Post yesterday.

To contact the reporter on this story: Shane Worrell at
With assistance from Kristin Lynch

April 19, 2012

Thai Company Says Work on Disputed Dam Has Started

Posted Thursday, April 19th, 2012 at 4:30 am

A Thai company may have already begun construction on a controversial hydroelectric dam on the Lower Mekong River, despite regional calls for further research into its impact on the environment.

On its website Tuesday, the CH. Karnchang development group says it has notified the Thai Stock Exchange that construction on the $3.5 billion Xayaburi Dam in Laos was scheduled to begin on March 15.

The regional Mekong River Commission, which includes Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam, agreed in December that further study was needed to assess the dam’s environmental impact before construction should proceed.

But CH. Karnchang’s statement seemed to confirm that it will push ahead with the project and ignore the ruling, which was not legally binding.

Environmental groups say the dam could have an uncertain environmental impact on the 60 million people who live along the Mekong River basin and depend on its fisheries for their livelihoods.

Pianporn Deetes, the Thailand campaign coordinator at the U.S.-based advocacy group International Rivers, tells VOA that initial stages of construction at the site have already forced some of the local population to re-locate.

“According to our field research, there has been some relocation in some of the villages. At least one village right at the dam site has already moved to the relocation site. And either construction or preparation work has already begun, I think for more than a year.”

The project is expected to take about eight years to complete.

Laos, one of the poorest nations in the world, expects a huge economic benefit from selling most of the dam’s 1,260 kilowatts of hydroelectric power to Thailand.

But Deetes fears those profits will come at the expense of the millions of people who live along the 4,800-kilometer river.

“We want to raise the issue and inform the shareholders that the companies are making profits, when the burden – the social and environmental cost – will be borne by the communities along the Mekong River.”

The Xayaburi dam would be the first hydropower dam on the lower reaches of the Mekong River, although China has built dams on the upper stretches.

April 1, 2011

Dam builders disregard ordinary people: 51 countries step up their campaign to get Thailand to cancel the proposed Xayaburi Dam on the Mekong River

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Proposed dam on the Mekong should not go ahead until all social and environmental concerns are addressed

International pressure is mounting as 263 non-governmental organizations from 51 countries step up their campaign to get Thailand to cancel the proposed Xayaburi Dam on the Mekong River’s mainstream in northern Laos. In a recent letter sent to the governments of Laos and Thailand, the NGOs urged all parties to cancel plans to build this destructive project, saying public and international credibility are at stake, as well as the ecology of the affected area and the huge number of people who depend on it for their livelihood and food security.

Environmental groups, scientists and others who have been following this project say it has serious flaws and it represents an unacceptable threat to the lives of millions of people in Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Viet Nam.

“The dam’s environmental impact assessment report, released last week, is totally inadequate,” Ame Trandem of International Rivers says. The U.S.-based group says the assessment lacks basic yet critical technical information. Other critics say the EIA was written to downplay the dam’s impact on fisheries and was deliberately released late (a final decision must be made by April 23) to minimize public opposition.

Unfortunately, Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, during a recent dinner with members of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand, was dazed when the issue was put to him. The P.M. appeared to confuse this dam ― which would be built by the Thai firm Ch Karnchang but is supported by Vientiane ― with another proposed by the Samak government near Ubon Ratchathani, which his government ditched; with good reason. But the P.M.’s apparent lack of awareness of the project has raised alarm bells, because the Xayaburi Dam looms as an environmental nightmare, partly because it could open the door to a dozen or so dams on the lower Mekong and destroy vast fish resources.

Trandem, of International Rivers, says the report failed to consider transboundary impacts, despite a warning from the Mekong River Commission that the environmental and social impacts will be irreversible and will be felt basin-wide should the project go ahead. “Given the quality of the EIA and the anticipated impacts, if this project goes ahead it would be unimaginably irresponsible,” she said.

But there are fears, based partly on recent history, that the demands from environmentalists may fall on deaf ears. The Lao government appears determined to press ahead with the project ― despite reports it could cause tension with Hanoi because of huge public concern in Viet Nam’s “rice bowl,” the Mekong Delta. There are already reports of earth-moving equipment near the proposed dam site, about 30km south of Luang Prabang

The sustainability of livelihoods ― for the tens of thousands who survive off fishing in Thai and Lao villages south of Chiang Khong, the vast number of Cambodians living around the huge Tonle Sap lake, and Vietnamese rice-growers in the lower reaches of the river ― is not at the heart of the decision-making process.

The Xayaburi Dam is a $3.5 billion project that was first proposed in 2007. While the dam is being pushed by Laos, it is essentially a Thai development. It would be funded by four Thai banks ― Kasikorn, Siam Commercial, Bangkok Bank and Krung Thai ― and about 95 percent of the 1,260 megawatts of electricity to be generated would be sent to Egat, Thailand’s state energy body. Thai environmental groups are suspicious and question how the P.M. could not be aware of this project, when he chairs the National Energy Commission, and must surely know Egat signed a memorandum of understanding for a power purchase agreement with Laos in July last year.

Thai villagers living adjacent to the river are fearful. At a public meeting about the dam on March 12, Kamol Konpin, the mayor of Chiang Khan, said: “As local people have already suffered from dams built upstream in China and watched the ecosystem change, we are afraid the Xayaburi Dam will bring more suffering. Our lives and livelihoods depend on the health of the Mekong River.”

If the Xayaburi Dam goes ahead, more than 2,100 people will have to be resettled and a further 202,000 living near the dam will be directly affected by impacts on the river’s ecology and fisheries. More than 41 fish species, including the Mekong giant catfish, will face the threat of extinction, according to fish experts and environmentalists.

Last October, a strategic environmental assessment, commissioned by the MRC, recommended a 10-year deferment in decision-making on dams on the Mekong mainstream, including the Xayaburi, due to an incomplete state of knowledge and the huge environmental and social risks. But the attitude of the builders, purchaser and financiers tells a different story. They continue to be indifferent to the recommendations and warnings.

As responsible members of the global community, Thailand, Egat, Ch Karnchang and the four Thai banks have a moral obligation to consider the well-being of people who will be directly affected by the dam’s construction. At the very least, there should be a delay in approving dams on the lower Mekong to ensure a comprehensive understanding of all possible negative effects. The risks involved are simply too great.

(Editorial, The Nation (Thailand))

March 22, 2011

Mekong River Crisis: Vietnamese Opposition Could Sway Lao Hydropower Plans


A Western construction worker surveys ongoing work to build a power plant for the Nam Theun 2 dam, south of Vientiane, Laos (file photo)

Vietnamese officials are criticizing the Lao government’s controversial plan to build a dam on the Mekong River. Analysts say opposition from Vietnam and other lower Mekong countries could force Laos to scale back its hydropower ambitions.

Vietnamese officials are publicly opposing a plan by neighboring Laos to build a hydropower dam on the Mekong River.

The $3.5 billion Xayaburi hydropower dam is the first of 12 dams planned for the lower Mekong. A Thai developer would build the dam, and Thailand would buy most of the 1,260 megawatts of electricity the dam would generate.

Lao officials say the proposed Mekong dams would cut poverty and bolster their land-locked country’s economy.


But Vietnamese officials say the dam would jeopardize water supplies and threaten fishing on the river’s downstream reaches. Their recent comments echoed warnings by environmentalists that the Mekong dams would damage the environment and threaten the livelihoods of people who live near the river.

Analysts say political pressure from Vietnam and its lower Mekong neighbors – Thailand and Cambodia – could force Laos to delay or modify its plans to harness the Mekong’s flow.

Philip Hirsch, a professor of human ecology at the University of Sydney, told VOA that of the lower Mekong countries, Vietnam has so far been most publicly critical of Laos’ hydropower ambitions.

“The interesting question, which I think is very difficult for anyone to answer, is how these two countries, Vietnam and Laos – which are so close – are going to extricate themselves from what at the moment seem to be diametrically opposite positions on the Xayabouri dam,” Hirsch said.

Vietnam and Laos are both one-party states and Hirsch says Vietnam typically influences Lao policy “behind closed doors.” But Hirsch says recent criticism of the Xayabouri proposal by high-ranking Vietnamese officials has been “very public.”

All four lower Mekong countries will be closely watching a recommendation on the dam expected this month from the Joint Committee of the Mekong River Commission, an advisory body formed in 1995 to promote sustainable development along the 4,900-kilometer Mekong system.


But Hirsch points out that the MRC has no power to force Laos to abandon its plans for the Xayabouri and other Mekong dams.

“The MRC is not a regulatory institution,” Hirsch added. “It’s not a strong agency in that way, it’s one which has always worked on the basis of trying to achieve consensus, and if we’re looking for regulation from the MRC, I think we’re looking in the wrong direction.”

Hirsch says Thailand has vowed to stay neutral in MRC negotiations, which puts the onus on Vietnamese and Cambodian officials to address the Xayabouri dam proposal in discussions with their Lao counterparts.

Trinh Le Nguyen is executive director of the Vietnamese NGO PanNature. He tells VOA that although Laos has final say over the Xayabouri and other Mekong dams, Vietnam may pressure Laos by threatening to not invest in future Mekong hydropower projects.

“Vietnam can decide not to invest or buy anything from [Laos],” Trinh Le Nguyen said. “It’s one of the ways they can have some power.”

In October, an independent study commissioned by the MRC recommended that lower Mekong countries delay decisions on hydropower projects for 10 years, warning that Mekong hydropower dams would exacerbate food insecurity and cause “serious and irreversible” environmental effects.

China, which borders northern Laos, already operates four dams on the upper reaches of the Mekong River.

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