PR – Laos to Undergo Prior Consultation, But Continue Building Don Sahong Dam

Wednesday, June 25, 2014


Bangkok, Thailand – In response to news from the 20th Meeting of the Mekong River Commission Council that Lao PDR has agreed to submit the Don Sahong Dam for Prior Consultation, as mandated under the 1995 Mekong Agreement, International Rivers issued the following statement from Southeast Asia Program Director, Ame Trandem:

“Laos has finally stepped up to their responsibility under the 1995 Mekong Agreement and international law by submitting the Don Sahong Dam for Prior Consultation. However, we note with great concern that it appears Laos intends to continue to develop the dam as planned, rather than use the prior consultation process as an opportunity for neighboring countries to have a voice in whether or not the project is built.  At today’s meeting, Mr. Viraphonh Viravong, Vice Minister of Energy and Mines of Lao PDR, stated “…with your support and constructive input, the Lao Government will continue to develop the project in a responsible and sustainable manner.”  In light of this decision, we call upon the Lao government to stop all construction at the site of the Don Sahong Dam and cooperate in good faith to allow for a true assessment of the project under the prior consultation process, which must include a transboundary impact assessment and meaningful consultation.  As we know the MRC’s prior consultation procedures have failed to ensure fair and transparent deliberations, as experienced with the Xayaburi Dam, the MRC must act to ensure that necessary procedural reform takes place before the consultation process gets underway.”

“While today’s decision is a step towards improved cooperation in the Mekong, further action is urgently needed to ensure that the rapid progress of dam building on the Mekong, without sufficient knowledge and understanding of the impacts, does not go unchecked. Decision-making over the shared Mekong River must be based on scientific knowledge, transboundary impact assessment and respect for the rights of all riparian nations. More time is needed for the MRC Council study and Mekong Delta study to be completed.  Furthermore, this week’s decision by the Thai Supreme Administrative Court to take on the lawsuit against the Xayaburi Dam’s power purchase agreement is a clear indication of the adverse transboundary impact that the Xayaburi Dam is likely to have on the Mekong River’s ecosystem and people, despite earlier claims made by the Lao government that the project would be sustainable.  For this reason, a precautionary approach is imperative and construction on the Don Sahong and Xayaburi dams should be suspended. Laos must continue to build on today’s step forward, by heeding the calls from Vietnam and Cambodia, along with the recommendations of the MRC’s Strategic Environmental Assessment, to defer all dam building on the Mekong mainstream for a period of 10-years.”

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