I would like to draw attention to the letter published in The Phnom Penh Post on November 27 titled "Dam Wrong" by Mr Stan Khan.
Mr Khan states: "Worse yet, the Mekong River Commission [MRC], which ostensibly would have a role in protecting the river's environment, is too weak to demand ecological considerations."
A recent regional consultation on the MRC's role in hydropower development held in Vientiane, Laos, with representatives from governments, developers, NGOs and development financiers, took a starkly different view to that in Mr Khan's letter. They concluded that the MRC has a major role to play in advising governments on decisions for hydropower development.
Firstly, there are the formal intergovernmental procedures for such projects, which are a requirement of the 1995 Mekong Agreement, before any such project can be approved for implementation. Some preliminary information is shared prior to the formal process of notification, a process that is expected to start in early 2009, once developers have provided sufficient information which the MRC can consider.
Secondly, participants at the meeting encouraged the MRC to expedite its work on strategic and cumulative assessment so that any such proposed projects can be assessed within a basin-wide framework, taking into account the types of impacts to which Mr Khan refers.
Thirdly, the consultants recognised the importance of the MRC in convening a world-renowned group of aquatic ecologists and mitigation specialists to investigate the likely scale of impact on migratory fish, and the prospects for future Mekong fish stocks and peoples' livelihoods that depend upon them. Experience from river projects around the world was also discussed at the conference.
The MRC is actively engaged in all areas of environmental concern, supporting the sustainable development of hydropower that is mutually beneficial to member states and implemented in accordance with the 1995 Mekong Agreement. It has long recognised that there are opportunities and risks with hydropower development.
At the MRC Secretariat, we have been guided by the MRC Council to ensure that these opportunities and risks are fully analysed. It is precisely the types of issues in Mr Khan's letter that are being considered by the MRC, and these issues will be highlighted to government decision-makers responsible for determining whether individual mainstream dam proposals will proceed to implementation.
CEO, MRC Secretariat
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