PR – Prior Consultation For Don Sahong Dam Set to Fail Before it Has Begun

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Prior Consultation For Don Sahong Dam Set to Fail Before it Has Begun 


Phnom Penh, Cambodia: As the Mekong River Commission’s (MRC) Joint Committee meets this week in Phnom Penh, it is expected that they will announce a start date for the Prior Consultation process for the Don Sahong Dam, setting into motion a six-month period for evaluation of the project. However, the process appears set for failure before it has even started. While construction towards the Don Sahong Dam is underway, regional consultation is expected to take place without necessary baseline studies needed to meaningfully assess the project and within a broken consultation process, whose problems have not been addressed since the first Mekong mainstream project, the Xayaburi Dam, exposed its serious flaws.

“Laos continues to put the cart before the horse when it comes to decisions that will impact the entire Mekong region. The Prior Consultation process for the Don Sahong Dam is no different,” said Ame Trandem, Southeast Asia Program Director for International Rivers. “A six-month timeline for Prior Consultation is meaningless without the necessary studies, including a transboundary environmental impact assessment, and tools to evaluate the project. Without a strong foundation, the process is nothing more than a façade for regional cooperation and is set to fail.”

Under the MRC’s Guidelines on Implementation of the Procedures for Notification, Prior Consultation and Agreement (PNPCA), Prior Consultation must take place before there is a commitment for a project to proceed. The rationale behind the procedures is to “afford the other member States the opportunity to evaluate and comment on the proposed use [of the project] and carry out their obligation to do “due-diligence” to assess any adverse impacts upon their rights and interests[…]” However Laos made it clear at the 20th Meeting of the MRC’s Council in June, that they intend to continue development of the Don Sahong Dam, in spite of the Prior Consultation process. In subsequent reports, Mega-First Corporation Berhad, the project developer, has also been quick to confirm that construction at the project site is on-going.

Since Laos first notified MRC member countries of their intentions to build the Don Sahong Dam in September 2013, regional governments have expressed concerns of the widespread impacts the dam is likely to have on fisheries and food security in the region. Cambodia and Vietnam have been vocal in calling for further assessment of the transboundary impacts of the project. Both countries have also called for all decisions regarding Mekong mainstream dams to be halted until the completion of the MRC Council study and the Mekong Delta study.

“It is clear that as it stands now, the Prior Consultation process will have no bearing on whether or not the project moves forward,” said Pianporn Deetes, Thailand Campaign Coordinator for International Rivers. “And despite Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam expressing strong concern about the transboundary impacts of the Don Sahong Dam, all four countries appear to be endorsing this empty process while irresponsibly placing the future of the Mekong River and its people at great risk.”

Problems with the PNPCA process have been well documented following the failure of the Xayaburi Dam process, including by civil society groups throughout the region who took part in the process. The MRC conducted their own evaluation of the process, as did MRC Development Partners, including the Australian Government, who funded the process. However, despite the problems identified in these reports and recommendations for addressing these issues, including considering an extension of the six-month Prior Consultation period and establishing criteria for Agreement, no changes have been made to improve the Prior Consultation process. The Australian Government now appears set to fund the broken process for a second time around.

“The MRC and Development Partners have a responsibility to ensure that necessary measures are taken to reform the Prior Consultation process before regional deliberations over the Don Sahong Dam begin,” said Ame Trandem. “Given the serious impacts that the Don Sahong Dam poses to fisheries and food security throughout the region, it is unacceptable that Laos continues to set all the rules of engagement. Mekong countries must demand an end to Laos’ unilateral behavior and a halt to all activities related to the Don Sahong Dam including all construction, on-going negotiations and the Prior Consultation process, until necessary studies can be carried out and reforms made to ensure a meaningful and participatory consultation process.”

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