Technical Review of the Xayaburi Environmental Impact Assessment

The site of the proposed Xayaburi Dam
In April 2011, five international Mekong specialists carried out a critical analysis of the Xayaburi Dam Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). The experts described the EIA as flawed and substandard. The five specialists in the fields of fisheries, livelihood restoration, consultation and water quality expressed surprise that an EIA of such poor quality was being submitted for a project with such far-reaching impacts as the first dam on the lower Mekong Mainstream. The reviews were submitted to the Mekong River Commission as part of the regional consultation process for the Xayaburi Dam.


  • Dr. Phil Hirsch, Professor of Human Geography and Director of the University of Sydney’s Australian Mekong Resource Centre reviewed the consultation process in the EIA. Dr. Hirsch found that affected people in Lao PDR upstream of the reservoir and more than 10 kilometers downstream of the dam had no opportunity for comment on the dam and its impacts. Furthermore, affected people in the identified project impact area were merely surveyed rather than consulted. As a result, the EIA fails to meet even minimum standards for consultation and participation. Click here to read Hirsch's review.
  • Zeb Hogan from the University of Reno, Nevada, USA and a renowned expert on the Mekong Giant Catfish, found that the Xayaburi Dam will have serious negative impacts on the giant, imperiled fish of the lower Mekong River and may drive the Mekong’s two largest freshwater fish species, the Mekong Giant Catfish and the Giant Pangasius (also known as the “dog-eating” catfish), to extinction.  Click here to read Hogan's review.
  • Dr. Guy Lanza, Professor of Microbiology at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, USA said “The EIA is punctuated by a lack of clarity, includes many contradictory statements, and is not acceptable from a technical standpoint… The EIA is of such poor quality that it seems highly irresponsible that it is being offered to support the first dam proposed for the lower Mekong mainstream.” Dr. Lanza found that the EIA is incomplete and oversimplifies the dam’s impacts on ecological resources, including water quality, aquatic ecology, fisheries and public health. Click here to read Lanza's review.
  • David Blake, a PhD Candidate at the University of East Anglia, UK, with over twelve years of experience in fisheries and community development in Thailand and Laos, found that the pivotal importance of Mekong fisheries to local livelihoods is poorly understood and undervalued in the reports. The EIA assumes that impacts will be confined to just the immediate dam area and upstream reservoir, ignoring the far wider eco-hydrological impacts predicted by fishery experts for long distances up and downstream of the dam. As a result, communities lying further afield who will be impacted through diminished livelihoods are not currently considered in the compensation and mitigation proposals. Click here to read Blake's review.