United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called for a “pause” on controversial hydropower dams proposed for the Mekong main stream at a summit in Bali at the weekend.
“This is a serious issue for all the countries that share the Mekong River, because if any country builds a dam, all countries will feel the consequences in terms of environmental degradation, challenges to food security, and impacts on communities,” Clinton said on Friday during a meeting between the US, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam.
“I want to urge all parties to pause on any considerations to build new dams until we are all able to do a better assessment of the likely consequences.”
As many as 11 hydropower dams, nine in Laos and two in Cambodia, have been proposed for the Mekong main stream.
A study conducted for the Mekong River Commission, a regional body created to jointly manage the river, recommended a 10-year delay on decisions to build such projects due to a lack of information about potentially devastating consequences for the fish-dependent basin.
Clinton’s comments come on the heels of a resolution introduced last month by three leading US senators calling on the US to wield its influence to delay the proposed dams.
In April, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam failed to agree on whether to end discussions on Laos’ plans to build the first such proposal – the US$3.8 billion, 1,285 megawatt Xayaburi dam – instead deferring a decision on the matter until later this year. Both Cambodia and Vietnam have called for further study of the project’s impact.
Letters leaked last month from the Lao Ministry of Mines and Energy and Xayaburi Power, a subsidiary of the Thai company backing the project, indicate that Laos has given the go-ahead on a power purchasing agreement with the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand.