Activists Dismayed at Mekong Summit Outcome

The Bangkok Post
Sunday, April 6, 2014

HO CHI MINH CITY: Environmentalists have expressed disappointment at the outcome of the second Mekong River Commission (MRC) summit, which wrapped up yesterday.

International Rivers, an environmental and human rights organisation, yesterday released a statement slamming regional leaders’ failure to address concerns over the proliferation of dams on the mainstream Mekong.

“While International Rivers is pleased that Mekong leaders recognise the negative environmental and social impacts that hydropower development poses to the mainstream, we are disappointed that leaders did not condemn the current rush of dam building on the Mekong,” the statement, signed by Southeast Asia programme director Ame Trandem, said.

The Mekong River, near the site of the Xayaburi Dam in June 2012.
The Mekong River, near the site of the Xayaburi Dam in June 2012.
Photo by Kirk Herbertson/International Rivers

“We expect all construction on the Xayaburi and Don Sahong dams to end immediately and that no further decisions or actions be taken until the Mekong River Commission Council Study, Vietnam’s Delta Study, and transboundary impact assessments for each project have been completed and the results have been comprehensively reviewed.

During the MRC summit, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam reaffirmed their commitment to Mekong region cooperation and to follow up the implementation of the 2010 Hua Hin Declaration.

They also set priorities for the MRC, including the need to expedite studies and research on development that will increasingly place burdens on Mekong river resources.

The Ho Chi Minh City Declaration was signed yesterday by representatives of all four countries.

The declaration means the MRC has to prioritise a number of regional opportunities and challenges over the next decade, including population growth, increasing demand for water, food and energy and climate change.

“To address such challenges, national efforts are not enough,” Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung said. "We need to strengthen regional cooperation, particularly among the riparian countries, both upper and lower, through multilateral and sub-regional mechanisms such as the MRC."

The Ho Chi Minh City Declaration states: “We note that the development of water resources of the Mekong River Basin has contributed largely to the socioeconomic development of the region, such as for navigation, energy and food production, but also has negative environmental and social impacts in the basin that need to be fully and effectively addressed."

The MRC will focus on avoiding, reducing and mitigating risks to river ecology, food security, livelihoods and water quality posed by intensive agriculture, aquaculture and irrigation, the declaration states.