A Reprieve For The Mekong

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Xayaburi Dam Delayed

Site of the proposed Xayaburi Dam
Site of the proposed Xayaburi Dam

On April 19, 2011, government representatives from Laos, Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia met to conclude the regional decision-making process on the Xayaburi Dam, the first dam proposed for the Lower Mekong Mainstream. At this meeting the four lower Mekong Basin countries agreed that the decision on the Xayaburi Dam be deferred and elevated to the Ministerial level. The April 19 decision brings a much needed, if temporary, reprieve to the mighty Mekong River.

Whilst Laos proposed to proceed with the dam, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam called for an extension to the decision-making process, citing concerns about transboundary impacts and knowledge gaps that require further study and public consultation. There has been widespread public opposition to the project both regionally and internationally, including criticism of the flawed decision-making process and poor Environmental Impact Assessment.

Three weeks after the regional meeting, Laos announced that the Xayaburi Dam will be temporarily delayed in order for an independent review of the project to be completed.  This news came after a side meeting was held between the Prime Ministers of Laos and Vietnam during the 18th ASEAN Summit in Jakarta, Indonesia.  Vietnam had sought a ten year moratorium on the Mekong mainstream dams.

The Xayaburi Dam is the single greatest threat currently facing the Mekong River and its people. The project would resettle around 2,100 people and directly affect a further 202,000 people living near the dam due to impacts on the river’s ecology and fisheries. The dam threatens 41 fish species with extinction, including the critically endangered Mekong Giant Catfish. A further 23 to 100 migratory species will also be threatened. Due to the devastating and irreversible risks the dam poses to the river’s ecosystem and to food security in the region, International Rivers believes that the project should be canceled. Furthermore, International Rivers believes that there is a clear scientific consensus against building the Xayaburi Dam.  In the coming months, we will continue to pressure the Lao government to cancel the Xayaburi Dam, and protect the Lower Mekong Mainstream.

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