PR - Don Sahong Dam Construction Creates Uncertainty Over Future of Regional Fisheries and Food Security

Tuesday, June 21, 2016


Bangkok, Thailand – Construction work on the Don Sahong Dam is progressing at a rapid pace. Reports from the ground show that the Hou Sahong Channel - crucial to seasonal fish migration - is completely blocked. The dam’s progress highlights urgent questions about its impacts on the food security and livelihoods of those near the dam site as well as up and downstream.

The haste of construction stands in stark contrast to the dam developers’ reticence to provide answers on the uncertainties surrounding the project. In particular, and of greatest concern to villagers along the river, the developers have not released any evidence to show that proposed mitigation measures to enable fish passage through the area will be effective. June is a critical time for fish migration in Siphandone, coinciding with the start of the rainy season. Many fishers rely on these months for income to sustain their families throughout the year. With the Hou Sahong Channel blocked, the future of fishery resources, and the livelihoods of fishing communities are in peril.

“Local communities depend on this period for a significant amount of their annual income from fishing,” said Pianporn Deetes, Thailand Campaigns Director. “However with construction of the Don Sahong Dam, communities in Siphandone and across the Mekong Basin are now living in a state of uncertainty and fear over their future.”

In early January, the Government of Laos held a groundbreaking ceremony to announce the start to construction of the Don Sahong Dam’s cofferdam. This announcement followed months of silence on the status of the Mekong River Commission’s (MRC) Prior Consultation procedure. During Prior Consultation, the four lower Mekong governments were unable to reach agreement on how to proceed with the dam. Six months into the process, the governments of Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam all requested an extension to Prior Consultation and called for further studies, including a Transboundary Environmental Impact Assessment. There is no evidence that the requested studies have been carried out and no information as to whether and how the concerns of neighboring countries have been addressed.

The MRC’s Technical Review of the Don Sahong Dam, published in February 2015, also highlights the ambiguity surrounding the proposed mitigation measures, which are critical to the project’s success. The Review notes a failure to explain how the alternate channels proposed for fish migration will accommodate the high diversity of fish species found in Siphandone and how the measures will take into account communities up and downstream of the dam.

“Once again the burden of proof lies with affected communities to demonstrate how this project will impact their lives, rather than with the developers,” said Pianporn Deetes. “But who will be responsible if the mitigation measures fail? Who will bear the cost for the loss of livelihoods, fishery resources and food security? These are questions which should have been answered before project agreements were signed and construction began; it is urgent that they are answered now.”

The United Nation’s Special Procedures echoed concerns over the impacts of the Don Sahong Dam in a report to the UN Human Rights Council last week. The report highlights the project’s potential violations of local people’s rights to adequate food and housing, information and participation, and the rights of indigenous people. The Special Procedures requested responses to these concerns directly from Mega First Corporation Berhad, the Governments of Laos and Malaysia and from the Mekong River Commission. They have not received any replies.

“Construction of the Don Sahong Dam should be immediately suspended in order to address the outstanding concerns of Mekong governments and communities, which include the need for a transboundary impact assessment and transparency on the studies conducted so far,” said Maureen Harris, Southeast Asia Program Director. “The project should not proceed until the developer is able to prove that the Don Sahong Dam will not cause significant harm to the Mekong River’s rich fisheries and the millions of people that depend on them.”

Don Sahong Dam June 2016

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