Environmentalists Press Mekong Dams Issue On ASEAN Agenda

Thursday, June 18, 2009

[DPA] Bangkok - Environmentalists on Thursday pressed Thailand to put the dangers posed by dam construction on the Mekong River to regional food supply on the agenda of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN). Some 12,365 people living in the four Asian countries rimming the Mekong River signed a "Save the Mekong" petition delivered to Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva Thursday, urging a review of plans to build 11 hydroelectric dams in Cambodia, Laos and Thailand.

"Thailand is now the leader of ASEAN, so we would like the prime minister to bring the issue of Mekong dams to the ASEAN platform," Premrudee Daoroung, one of the petitioners who met Abhisit, said.

The petition was also sent to the leaders of Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam, all ASEAN countries connected by the Mekong River.

Of the signatures collected, 7,389 were from Thailand, 2,625 from Cambodia, 583 from Laos, 338 from China, 240 from Vietnam and 26 from Myanmar, also known as Burma. Another 4,015 were collected abroad, totalling 16,380 signatures.

While acknowledging that the number of signatures was not huge, Premrudee said the contributions from Laos, a communist state where dissidence is not brooked mildly, were significant.

There are 11 large hydroelectric dams either planned or under construction by Chinese, Thai, Malaysian, Vietnamese and Russian companies on the Mekong River in Laos, Cambodia and Thailand, with several others already in place in China.

Environmentalists worry that the dams will disrupt fisheries, that are a major source of employment and protein for some 60 million people in the Mekong River region.

"What we are talking about here is food security," said Carl Middleton of the International Rivers group. "The Mekong River is host to the world's largest inland fishery, with the commercial fish catch worth 3 billion dollars annually.

"Building dams on the river's mainstream will block the major fish migration that accounts for 70 per cent of the commercial catch," Middleton warned.

Environmental impact studies on many of the planned dams have not been up to international standards, environmentalist groups claim.

More information: 

See postcard launch information on International Rivers' webpage and www.savethemekong.org