Mekong Commission blasted over river dams

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Article from The Nation, Bangkok's Independent Newspaper

Environmentalists slammed the Mekong River Commission yesterday for
failing to protect the waterway.
They called for higher moral standards and transparency at the
intergovernmental organisation.
"The commission needs to prove it is a useful organisation for the
public, not just investors," said Chulalongkorn University Social
Research Institute director Surichai Wankaew.
Surichai told a news conference in Bangkok yesterday he wanted the
commission's role changed.
Instead of "facilitating dam construction" it should be a platform for
affected people and society to voice their concerns.
The Mekong commission was established in 1995 by an agreement between
the governments of its riparian nations.
It is now under fire for failing to keep people informed of the
negative impact of six proposed dams. The groups Terra (Towards
Ecological Recovery and Regional Alliances) and Living Rivers Siam
(Searin) said the governments of Laos, Cambodia and Thailand had
approved feasibility studies for five dams and hydroelectric power
The dams are at Pak Beng, Xayabouri and Pak Lay in northern Laos; Don
Sahong in southern Laos and Sambor in Cambodia.
Thailand is pushing ahead with plans for another dam at Ban Koum on
its border with Laos.
Yesterday's attack comes a day after more than 200 civil and
environment groups from 30 countries demanded the commission and donor
institutions stop the dams.
However, Suchart Sirichan-sakul, of the Thailand National Mekong
Committee, argued that the commission had no authority to stop or
permit dams. "I'm afraid the non-governmental organisations
misunderstand the fact that we are a consultant organisation. We don't
have the authority to say yes or no to any dam construction project,"
he said.
Suchart said the activists should target the governments of the
countries that proposed the dams.
The commission and its donors meet tomorrow at Siem Reap, Cambodia.
Environment Minister Yongyuth Yuthavong represents Thailand.