PR: Fish Plunder at Stake, Laos Announces Plans to Build Don Sahong Dam

Ame Trandem
Wednesday, October 2, 2013







Fish Plunder at Stake, Laos Announces Plans to Build Don Sahong Dam

Bangkok, Thailand: On Monday, Laos notified the Mekong River Commission (MRC) and member countries of its intent to build its second Mekong mainstream project, the 260 MW Don Sahong Dam. As the Don Sahong Dam will block the only channel available for dry-season fish migrations on the Mekong River, the move places the world’s largest inland fishery at stake.

Through its letter of ‘prior notification’ provided to the MRC, Laos has side-stepped its responsibilities to submit the project to the MRC’s ‘prior consultation’ process, despite earlier statements made by the MRC Secretariat and its international donors that the project should undergo the consultation process to allow for regional decision-making.

Fish Traps along the Mekong River
Fish Traps along the river

“Laos is once again attempting to evade its responsibilities, while forcing the public in the whole region to pay for the immense damage that the Don Sahong Dam will cause,” said Mr.Teerapong Pomun of Thailand’s Living Rivers Siam Association. “Laos must cancel this project, along with the other mainstream dams, before it’s too late.”

In a 2007 review of the Don Sahong Dam’s EIA, the MRC stated that the project is subject to ‘prior consultation,’ as the dam is located on the mainstream since its inflow comes not from a tributary, but rather through the mainstream. During a MRC Informal Donors Meeting held in June, ten international donors, including the European Union, Japan and the USA, asked the Lao government to share the Don Sahong Dam’s EIA report and submit the project to prior consultation.

“If the MRC fails to clamp down on Laos, it will be failing its mandate and will lose any validity they have left as an organization,” said Ms. Ame Trandem of International Rivers.  “The MRC can no longer absolve Laos from its responsibilities; this project must undergo the prior consultation as mandated by the 1995 Mekong Arrangement. A moratorium should also be implemented on all mainstream dam building, so that the MRC’s impact study on the projects – that was agreed upon by Laos and neighboring countries in 2011 – is first implemented.”

Proposed site of the Don Sahong Dam
Proposed site of the Don Sahong Dam

Following in the footsteps of Xayaburi – the first Lower Mekong mainstream dam – Laos began preparatory work towards the Don Sahong Dam in the Khone Falls area of southern Laos in 2012.  Creating a barrier across the only channel, the Hou Sahong, that allows for fish migration year-round, would seriously impact the migration, feeding and breeding patterns of a diverse number of fish, creating transboundary impacts. Additionally, the already endangered Irrawaddy dolphins would come under increased threat through lost habitat and ecological changes to the river. In order to increase flows into the channel for energy production, approximately 1.9 million cubic meters of sediment from the riverbed will be excavated. The project’s 2009 feasibility study stated this would create a diversion, allowing for approximately 9-10% of wet season flows to travel through the Hou Sahong channel.

“The Don Sahong Dam will only push Cambodia and Vietnam closer to a food crisis. As the project is next to Cambodia’s border, have they forgotten that fish are our lifeline and the backbone of our economy?  Fish are central to our diet and our main source of protein,” said Mr. Chhith Sam Ath of the NGO Forum on Cambodia. “It’s irresponsible to proceed with this project without consulting downstream people or even carrying out a credible transboundary impact assessment. Fish are simply too precious of a resource to be squandered.”

“While energy can be generated via more sustainable sources, the depletion of fish and food is irreversible,” said Ms. Nguy Thi Khanh of Vietnam’s Green Innovation and Development Centre.  “The Mekong governments must find a way out of this dilemma, before regional tensions grow. We cannot let politics and unilateral decisions fail our rivers and future water and food security.  Now more than ever, we need the MRC and its member countries to protect the indispensable resources that the Mekong River provides for millions of people.”

Media contacts: 

  • Teerapong Pomun, Director of Living River Siam Association, Thailand.  T: +66 81 447 7969, E:  
  • Kumpin Aksorn, Hag Namkhong Group, Ubon Ratchathani, Thailand. T: +66 80 736 9330, E:  (Thai and Lao languages)
  • Chhith Sam Ath, Executive Director of the NGO Forum on Cambodia, Cambodia. T: +855 12 928 585, E:  
  • Meach Mean, Coordinator of the 3S Rivers Protection Network, Cambodia.  T:+855 88 798 4490, E:
  • Lam Thi Thu Suu, Director of CSRD and Coordinator of Vietnam Rivers Network, Vietnam. T:+84 945 503 508, E: