Posts tagged ‘Environment’

September 26, 2014

Call on Laotian people to save our Land, Very Soon Mekong dam will destroying the region’s lifeblood

Help Us Save the Mekong River!

Our River feeds Millions


The Mekong River is under threat. The governments of Cambodia, Laos and Thailand are considering plans to build 11 big hydropower dams on the river's mainstream

Mekong Dams: Opposition Grows to Laos’ Mega Dams

Key Issues:
Xayaburi, Don Sahong, and Lower Mekong Mainstream Dams

A renewed push to build hydropower dams on the lower Mekong mainstream is threatening the river’s ecosystems, aquatic resources and the fishery-dependent livelihoods of millions of people.


แม่น้ำโขง – สายน้ำที่ยาวที่สุดในอุษาคเนย์ และยาวเป็นอันดับสิบของโลก จากต้นกำเนิดบริเวณเทือกเขาหิมาลัย แม่น้ำโขงไหลผ่านถึง 6 ประเทศ จากที่ราบสูงทิเบต ผ่านภาคตะวันตกเฉียงใต้ทางมณฑลยูนนาน ประเทศจีน ไหลสู่ พม่า ลาว ไทย กัมพูชา ก่อนจะออกสู่ทะเลจีนใต้ที่ดินดอนสามเหลี่ยมปากแม่น้ำประเทศเวียดนาม รวมความยาวทั้งสิ้น 4,909 กิโลเมตร

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The international community should not let the Lao government get away with such a blatant violation of international law. We are calling on donor governments and the governments of Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia to take a firm stand against Laos. 

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“The international community should not let the Lao government get away with such a blatant violation of international law,” said Ms. Ame Trandem, Southeast Asia Program Director for International Rivers. “We are calling on donor governments and the governments of Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia to take a firm stand against Laos. The Xayaburi Dam is the first of a cascade of devastating mainstream dams that will severely undermine the region’s development efforts. The food security and jobs of millions of people in the region are now on the line.”

Xayaburi Construction’s Photo

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Activists are unhappy with Laos’ pledge to study the environmental effects of the controversial Xayaburi hydro dam.  Click for more

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Ame Trandem, Pianporn Deetes
November 8, 2012 1:00 am

In clear defiance of its neighbours and a regional agreement, the Lao government announced that it would hold a groundbreaking ceremony at the Xayaburi Dam site on the Mekong River on Wednesday, November 7. Viraphonh Viravong, Laos’ deputy minister of energy and mining, said “It has been assessed, it has been discussed the last two years. We have addressed most of the concerns.
After the ceremony, the project developers are expected to begin construction on the cofferdam, which diverts the river while the permanent dam wall is built. The cofferdam is expected to be completed by May 2013.

The international community should not let the Lao government get away with such a blatant violation of international law. We are calling on donor governments and the governments of Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia to take a firm stand against Laos.

The Xayaburi Dam is the first of a cascade of devastating mainstream dams that will severely undermine the region’s development efforts. The food security and jobs of millions of people in the region are now on the line.

Construction activities at the dam site began in late 2010. In April 2011 the Cambodian and Vietnamese governments asked the Lao government for further studies on the project’s trans-boundary effects. In December 2011 the four governments of the Mekong River Commission met and agreed to conduct further studies on the effects of the Xayaburi Dam and 10 other proposed mainstream dams. To date, no regional agreement has been made to build the Xayaburi Dam despite the 1995 Mekong Agreement’s requirement that the governments of Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand and Laos cooperate and seek joint agreement on mainstream projects.

Laos said it would cooperate with neighbouring countries, but this was never genuine. Instead, the project always continued on schedule and was never actually delayed. None of Vietnam and Cambodia’s environmental and social concerns have been taken seriously. Laos has never even collected basic information about the ways that people depend on the river, so how can it say that there will be no impacts?

On October 22, Vietnam’s minister of natural resources and environment met the Lao prime minister and requested that all construction on the Xayaburi Dam be stopped until necessary studies to assess the effects of Mekong mainstream dams were first carried out.

Laos continues to deny that the dam will have trans boundary impacts and is applying the recommended mitigation measures made by Finnish consulting company Poyry and French company Compagnie Nationale du Rhone, despite the fact that the project has never carried out a trans-boundary impact assessment. The Cambodian government, Vietnamese government, and scientists throughout the Mekong region have disagreed with the work of these companies.

Laos is playing roulette with the Mekong River, offering unproven solutions and opening up the Mekong as a testing ground for new technologies. When the Mekong River Commission stays quiet and tolerates one country risking the sustainability of the Mekong River and all future trans-boundary cooperation, something is seriously wrong.

As Thai companies serve as the project’s developers and financers, and the Thai government will purchase the bulk of the Xayaburi Dam’s electricity, Thailand has the responsibility to call for a stop to construction immediately and cancel its power purchase agreement until there is regional agreement to build the dam. This move by Laos sets a dangerous precedent for the future of the Mekong region. If Laos is allowed to proceed unhindered, then in the future all member governments will proceed unilaterally on projects on the Mekong River. The Mekong Agreement will become yet another useless piece of paper.

Unless the Mekong dam crisis is tackled immediately, the future of the region is in great danger. With the Asian and European heads of states gathered in Vientiane, Laos for the Asem Summit, it’s time that the international community takes a strong stand and makes it clear that such actions by Laos will not be tolerated.

Ame Trandem is Southeast Asia programme director, International Rivers. Pianporn Deetes is Thailand campaign coordinator, International Rivers.

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Credits: International Rivers

April 9, 2014

Ho Chi Minh City: Mekong Summit Struggles to Halt Devastating Dams


Mekong Summit Struggles to Halt Devastating Dams

July 8, 2013

Notes from the Field: Rapid Pursuit of GDP Growth in Lower Mekong Region Threatens Environment

The Asia Foundation

Rapid Pursuit of GDP Growth in Lower Mekong Region Threatens Environment

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June 26, 2013


Next week, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will join leaders from the Lower Mekong Initiative (LMI) partner countries – Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam – for the sixth LMI Ministerial Meeting in Brunei, Darussalam. The meeting will be held on the margins of the ASEAN Regional Forum Ministerial Meeting, with the theme Our People, Our Future Together,” stressing the importance for the people of ASEAN to work together for the development of the region.

The Mekong River is the seventh largest in the world, covering an area of 1.9 million square kilometers. The region is rich in natural resources including fisheries, forests, biodiversity, and minerals. Photo/Bart Verweij

The LMI was created in 2009 by then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and foreign ministers from the partner countries to enhance cooperation among the Lower Mekong countries in the areas of environment, health, education, and infrastructure development. Much is at stake: communities in the region are experiencing great changes from fast-paced economic growth averaging five to seven percent annually. While recent growth has reduced poverty and supported progress toward achieving the Millennium Development Goals, the rapid pursuit of GDP growth, urbanization, infrastructure development, raw materials, and energy sources also jeopardizes the region’s natural resource base, food security, and livelihoods. Coordinated efforts will be necessary to ensure that equitable and sustainable development benefits all 60 million people in the region.

The Lower Mekong region is bound by the Mekong River, whose source originates in China and empties into the South China Sea in Vietnam. The river is the seventh largest in the world, covering an area of 1.9 million square kilometers. The region is rich in natural resources including fisheries, forests, biodiversity, and minerals. Throughout my career in international development, I’ve had the opportunity to observe the river at different locations and times, always impressed by its vital role as a source of livelihood that communities and ecosystems depend on deeply. But recent fast-paced developments, un-balanced by the voices and perspectives of the very people whose lives depend on it, are threatening this system.

Encounters with the Mekong

My first glimpse of the Mekong River was when I was traveling in 2007 in Yunnan Province, China, where the river there is known as the Lancang River. I was distinctly aware of its direct source: cold melt water from the Himalayan Glaciers of the Tibetan Plateau, a few thousand miles to the north, having recently traveled there. Climate change, however, is projected to decrease China’s glacial coverage by 27 percent by 2050, which would significantly diminish water availability for communities throughout the Mekong region.

My next encounter with the Mekong River was in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, in 2010, where the river flows through the capital city, and during the rainy season, reverses course to flow into Tonle Sap Lake, via a tributary of the same name, a unique phenomenon that is critical for supporting the rich ecosystem, including rare plant, bird, and fish species. Roughly 75 percent of people in the region rely on agriculture and fisheries for their livelihoods, and freshwater fish from the Mekong River and its tributaries, including Tonle Sap, which is Southeast Asia’s largest freshwater lake, provide 47 to 80 percent of their animal protein.

Development in the Region

While recent growth has reduced poverty in the Lower Mekong Region, the rapid pursuit of GDP growth also jeopardizes the region’s natural resource base, food security, and livelihoods. Photo/Marco Ryan

However, regional development projects threaten the food security for these dependent communities who make up the majority of the region’s population. Over the past several years, a shift in the financing of development projects in the region has been occurring, from traditional development assistance from multilateral development banks such as the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank (ADB), to more regionally-based sources, including the private sector, banks, and national governments. These regional investments, which include projects like dams, pipelines, and railroads, in many cases do not have concrete safeguards against negative social and environmental impacts. They also have significant implications for neighboring countries, which requires broader ecosystem, participatory, and basin-wide approaches to development.

My third glimpse of the Mekong River was in the Lao capital of Vientiane in 2011, also the home of the Mekong River Commission (MRC), the regional body consisting of four Lower Mekong country members (Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, and Vietnam) to coordinate information on development projects that have regional implications, including dam construction. Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese, and Malaysian companies are currently financing 11 dams planned for construction along the mainstream Mekong – nine in Laos and two in Cambodia. The Social and Environmental Assessment (SEA) conducted on these dams for the MRC concluded that their cumulative impact would significantly alter downstream flows and water levels, block fish migration, decimate economically crucial and endangered species, trap silt needed to sustain rice production, and impact the livelihoods of millions of people in the region. The Xayaburi Dam in particular, which is planned for construction in Laos on the mainstream Mekong, has been controversial for its potential impacts to ecosystem dynamics and local livelihoods. However, the dam is set for development, despite opposition and concerns by the Cambodian and Vietnamese governments, civil society, and environmental groups.

Public Participation is Needed

Meaningful public engagement and participation on these regional development projects is limited, and access to information by the communities varies, as do the direct impacts that the projects have across the region. In Cambodia, civil society can access some environmental information, but often lack the technical capacity to provide meaningful input. While organizations monitor and advocate upwards, there is little time spent on disseminating information widely and educating the general public. In Laos, non-profit associations were granted defined legal status quite recently, in 2009, and their capacity is still limited. Similarly in Myanmar, recent reform measures created opportunities for increased civil society engagement, but basic capacity-building is needed. While Thailand’s 2007 Constitution requires public participation on natural resource protection, the public is often unaware of important environmental information, and elevating issues to the national level is a challenge. In Vietnam, there are existing laws and regulations aimed at protecting the environment, but their implementation and enforcement is problematic. Interaction between civil society and the government is growing but still very limited, and much remains to be done to broaden the space for public participation that can lead to more sustainable and equitable outcomes.

Civil society in the region is beginning to coordinate through networks and coalition groups on issues of mutual interest in response to the regional impacts of large-scale projects. To date, however, civil society initiatives have not been able to significantly influence regional development project decisions. Their efforts currently have little chance of success when they challenge governments and powerful economic and financial stakeholders with vested interests in seeing projects implemented as quickly as possible.

At the same time, regional bodies, such as the ADB, MRC, ASEAN, and the LMI, coordinate efforts on shared regional interests including economic integration, development in the Mekong River Basin, trade, environment, health, education, and infrastructure, and have made concerted attempts to engage the public on development projects. But in practice these bodies have not yet been effective in engaging local communities, and regional multi-stakeholder engagement has yet to ensure non-state actors can influence regional development decisions. Let’s hope leaders at Monday’s ministerial meeting bring citizens’ voices and concerns to the table.

Lisa Hook is a senior program officer for The Asia Foundation’s Environment Programs in San Francisco. She can be reached at The views and opinions expressed here are those of the individual author and not those of The Asia Foundation.

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June 21, 2013

Laos farmers struggle with erratic weather

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a service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

Laos farmers struggle with erratic weather

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June 20, 2013

VIENTIANE, 20 June 2013 (IRIN) – Hit hard by hot and dry weather, farmers near Laos’s capital are looking for new ways to adapt to climate change and protect their cash crops as the temperature in recent months rose above 40 degrees Celsius.

Khamphou Phanthaboun, the chief of an organic vegetable growers’ group in Nontae, a village in Xaythany District near Vientiane, said his vegetables are dying in the unseasonable heat.

“The bore well is dry so there is not enough water [for] the vegetables,” he said.

Weather experts say that irregular weather patterns since 2007 have caused the monsoon season in Laos, typically first seen in mid-May, to come as early as March or as late as June. This year, it came in early May after drought-like conditions left central and southern parts of the country parched.

A recent US Agency for International Development funded study on climate change in the lower Mekong Basin (including parts of Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam) identified climate change “hotspots” where conditions will become unsuitable for crops currently grown there. Two Lao provinces (Khammouan in the country’s centre and Champasak in the south) are both projected to lose crop yields.

The study projected higher-than-global average temperature increases in the basin (a 4-6 Celsius degree jump versus the global estimate of a two degree increase), which will mean “dramatic changes in the comfort zone of crops… which could have serious negative consequences for the livelihoods, health and food security of the local communities in these areas.”

Bounteum Sysouphanthavong, acting head of the Laotian government’s Weather Forecasting and Aeronautical Meteorology Division of the Meteorology and Hydrology Department, told IRIN temperatures so far in 2013 have climbed above the average high of around 31 degrees Celsius for this period.

Rainfall in central Laos, around Vientiane, has also been less than normal. From January to April, the region recorded just 92mm of rain, which averages 157mm during those months. The wet season started off slowly with 176mm of rain, almost 100mm below the average for May.

Manfred Staab of the UN Development Programme (UNDP) in Laos suggested affected farmers pursue crop diversification and water management.

Phanthaboun, who started growing vegetables in 1996, has struggled to adapt to drought-like conditions. Organic crops are usually in high demand and can earn up to three times more than those grown with chemicals. The recent weather, however, has cut his vegetable sales by nearly half. Friends in his village face similar issues, with many families’ cultivable land shrinking.

Since 2005, the government has encouraged farmers to abandon pesticides and chemical fertilizer to exploit a growing organic foods market.

Most of the 170 families in Phanthaboun’s village grow cash crops (including turnips, lettuce and Chinese cabbage), with about 130 families using chemical fertilizer. About a dozen families cultivate organic vegetables.

The Xaythany District, with a population of about 167,000, mainly produces crops for Vientiane’s markets, supplying some three tons weekly of organic vegetables.

In 2009, Khamphou began to have some success growing vegetables that withstood hot weather and pests after rotating his crops post-harvest. “If we grow the same vegetables in the same pot the whole year, the pest will stay permanently,” he said.

But years later, Phanthaboun’s group is battling ever more erratic climate.

With guidance from local agriculture officials, Phanthaboun built a greenhouse with special netting as roofing. “I tried to grow some kinds of vegetables in the house, but they did not grow well and died the same as if they were planted outside,” he said.


[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

November 9, 2012

Work underway on contested mega-dam: Laos official

Mekong River is so beautiful but will destroyed by dams:


BANGKOK — Laos has begun work on a controversial multi-billion dollar dam, an official confirmed Thursday, defying objections from environmentalists in its bid to become a regional energy hub.

Construction on the main part of the $3.8 billion hydroelectric project at Xayaburi — stalled for about 18 months over concerns about its impact — formally began after Laos said it had adapted the design to assuage its neighbours’ fears.

“We started working on the river yesterday after a ground-breaking ceremony,” deputy energy minister Viraphonh Viravong told AFP, refuting a previous report that the country’s Prime Minister had said work had not begun.

The project, led by Thai group CH Karnchang, has sharply divided the four Mekong nations — Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand — who rely on the river system for fish and irrigation.

Thailand has agreed to buy most of the electricity generated by the dam, but Cambodia and Vietnam have raised fears it could ruin their farming and fishing industries.

Laos has said the project is on course to be completed by the end of 2019.

“The ambassadors of Vietnam and Cambodia were there at the ceremony yesterday,” Viraphonh said, responding to a question over whether Laos’ neighbours had complained about the official start of construction.

Communist Laos, one of the world’s most under-developed nations, believes the dam will help it become “the battery of Southeast Asia” by selling electricity to its richer neighbours.

But environmentalists say the project will be disastrous for the 60 million people who depend on the river for transportation, food and economy.

They fear Mekong fish species will become endangered as vital nutrients are trapped and dozens of species are prevented from swimming upstream to mating grounds.

Urging further study into its likely impact, Li Lifeng of the WWF conservation group on Wednesday said the region should make a stand now or “risk resting the future of the Mekong on flawed analysis… that could have dire consequences for millions of people.”

Vietnam and Cambodia have refrained from criticising the start of construction, and both have backed Laos to stick to a pledge to halt work if a negative ecological impact is detected.

Thai senators, however, were outspoken on Thursday, saying construction should be suspended for at least a decade pending further scientific studies.

“The lives of 60 million people will be wrecked and catastrophically destroyed. It is an act of sabotage to the Mekong River which is the nature’s treasure”, said Senator Prasan Marukpitak, the head of an environment subcommittee.

Copyright © 2012 AFP. All rights reserved

Laos: pressing ahead with the Mekong dam despite concerns

November 8, 2012 11:14 am
By Jake Maxwell Watts and Nguyen Phuong LinhAs construction starts on a controversial hydropower project in Laos, it becomes clearer by the day that this poor and underdeveloped country is likely to place its ambition to be the “battery of south-east Asia” above any cost to the environment – and that price will be considerable.Construction of a large dam on the Mekong river at Xayaburi began this week despite environmental concerns, which shows a change in attitude from the government that may signal likely endorsement of other foreign-sponsored hydropower projects.

Nguyen Huu Thien, from Mekong Wetlands, a non-governmental organisation in Vietnam, said that Xayaburi would be “a very bad precedent for other decisions on this issue.” The largely Thai-funded project is the first of 11 waiting for approval. Nguyen said he expects the other dams to be approved soon.

Laos is a tiny landlocked country of just 6m with a languid Leninist government which increasingly feels it has little option but to invest in hydropower to feed its richer neighbours’ appetites for electricity and fuel its own economic growth. The World Bank calculated in 2010 that Laos could become a middle-income country if it achieved 7.5 per cent growth over the next ten years. Hydropower and mining contributed to 2.5 percentage points of the 7 per cent annual growth between 2007 and 2010, and it looks set to be even more valuable in the next decade.

The final decision to begin construction of the $3.5bn Xayaburi dam was announced on Tuesday by the Lao deputy energy minister – although the prime minister swiftly denied it – as an Asia-Europe trade summit convenes this week in the Laotian capital, Vientiane. The dam has been delayed since 2010 amid concerns that fish stocks and the livelihood of millions would be threatened on the region’s most important river, the Mekong. Environmental groups have been highly critical of research so far into the possible environmental impact, but the government appears unwilling to delay any longer.

International Rivers, a campaign group, has also expressed concern about Laos’s poor record of public sector corruption.

The Mekong River runs from China through Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam and is the largest source of freshwater fish in the world, according to the Mekong River Commission. Four dams already exist in the faster moving Upper Mekong, but the Xayaburi dam will be the first to be built in the lower area. The MRC estimated in 2011 that the full hydropower potential of the Lower Mekong Basin was over 30,000 MW (more than enough to power Bangkok) – and less than 10 per cent has been developed so far.

There has been no comment on the dam’s approval from Vietnam and Cambodia yet, which both previously opposed the project, although the Lao energy minister Viraphonh Viravong said that he could “sense that Vietnam and Cambodia now understand how we have addressed their concerns”, referring to amendments to the original plans which try to resolve some environmental issues.

The Thais, meanwhile, have reinforced their support for the project, albeit in an understated way, when the foreign minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul said on Tuesday that “the Thai government is not opposed to the project.”

The Xayaburi dam is a joint venture between Thai companies CH Karnchang, PTT and a state-owned enterprise. Thailand is expected to import around 90 per cent of the power generated by the dam when it is completed in 2019.

Despite rising demand in the region for electricity, particularly renewables, previous investments in hydropower have not always been successful. The Mun River dam in northern Thailand, on a Mekong tributary, went over-budget when it was built in the 1990s and caused widespread environmental damage for little benefit to investors.

Laos clearly has ambitions to be a regional electricity exporter and much foreign investment is being attracted for building projects, but opposition groups may find it difficult in a region where securing economic growth is a priority not easily curbed. In the immediate future, the profits may roll in for Laos, but the eventual price may be much higher.

Related reading:
Mekong river dam decision delayed
, FT (2011)
Mekong dam project suffers further setback
, FT (2011)

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