PR – MRC Must Safeguard the Mekong River As they Decide Fate of the Don Sahong Dam

Ame Trandem
Monday, January 26, 2015

Bangkok, Thailand: Tomorrow, the Mekong River Commission’s Joint Committee will hold a special session to conclude the Don Sahong Dam’s Prior Consultation process. The process has been widely criticized as no more than a façade for regional cooperation; a way for Laos to appease its neighbors, while continuing development of the controversial Mekong mainstream hydropower project, as construction has been ongoing during the six-month consultation period. The governments of Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam have voiced concerns about the limited studies, particularly on the transboundary impacts of the project, and called for further research and time to understand the impacts of the Don Sahong Dam on their respective countries. Laos has so far failed to respond to these requests. During the Special Joint Committee meeting in Vientiane all four Mekong governments are expected to present their positions on the project.  Under the 1995 Mekong Agreement, Laos is required to address these concerns, while making a “good faith” effort to reach agreement between all four member countries on how to proceed.   

“The future of the Mekong depends on the decisions that are made by the Mekong River Commission and its member countries tomorrow,” said Ame Trandem, Southeast Asia Program Director for International Rivers. “The Don Sahong Dam’s Prior Consultation process has clearly been a farce as Laos has yet to cooperate with its neighboring countries in “good faith” and provide the necessary information and studies with which to evaluate the project. Rather than rehashing the same concerns over the Don Sahong Dam’s transboundary impacts, the governments of Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam, must go a step further at tomorrow’s meeting and demand that a series of milestones occur before a final decision is made over whether or not to build this dam.”

“Mekong countries must demand that construction towards the Don Sahong Dam be immediately halted and sufficient studies on the project’s transboundary and cumulative impacts must be carried out. Furthermore, the burden of proof must lie with the developer to demonstrate that the project’s impacts will be limited and mitigation measures will succeed. Only when this has occurred can the Mekong countries properly evaluate the project’s impacts on their respective countries. Finally the Don Sahong Dam should only be allowed to proceed if and when agreement is reached between all four countries and their people,” continued Ms. Trandem.

“A Mekong crisis that risks the livelihoods and food security of millions of people can be avoided if regional governments uphold their responsibility to sustainably manage and protect the Mekong River,” said Pianporn Deetes, Thailand Campaign Coordinator for International Rivers. “Empty commitments by regional leaders will no longer hold. It is clear the risks of the Don Sahong Dam and the cascade of mainstream dams that will follow are too great to gamble on half completed studies and blind faith in risky and unproven mitigation technologies. Instead, Mekong governments must advocate for a future that sustains the Mekong’s irreplaceable resources, along with the lives of the millions of people depending on them.”

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