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Xayaburi dam not on MRC's agenda

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The Xayaburi dam, the construction site of which is shown above, was not on the agenda of the Mekong River Commission’s annual general meeting. Photograph: International Rivers

As construction of the Xayaburi dam continued and reports surfaced of groundwork being laid on other mainstream dam projects in Laos, the Mekong River Commission (MRC)’s annual general meeting began yesterday without these issues on the agenda.

Representatives from the four member countries – Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam – discussed hydro power in broad terms and sustainable water management, according to its agenda, but as expected, did not broach the issue of Xayaburi and the MRC’s prior consultation process, which Xayaburi’s construction undermined.

Chhith Sam Ath, executive director of NGO Forum on Cambodia, said the meeting in Luang Prabang, Laos, which will continue today, was an opportunity for the government to speak up about Xayaburi, which Thai developer Ch. Karnchang began building for Laos in November.

“Regional governments hold the power to prevent the tragedy... that will likely occur if the Xayaburi and other Mekong mainstream dams move forward,” he said.

“We are appealing to regional governments and donors to ensure that a review of the prior consultation process is conducted before any other projects move forward to prevent other projects from following the same problematic path [as] the Xayaburi dam.”

Environmental group International Rivers, which says preliminary work for other mainstream hydro dam projects has begun, released a report this week accusing Laos of breaching the 1995 Mekong agreement and others.

“The MRC’s [hydropower dam prior consultation agreement] prohibits a government from implementing a project while the prior consultation is underway,” the reports states.

“Similarly, international law also prohibits project implementation while the prior consultation is underway.”

Other groups including the WWF voiced concerns over the agenda, while a group of Thai politicians wrote to Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra urging her delegation to raise Xayaburi in the MRC meeting.

Statements from member countries and donors are expected today.

Surasak Glahan, communications officer with the MRC secretariat, said Xayaburi was not raised yesterday, but the prior consultation process would be mentioned today.

“There will be a presentation and discussion on the implementation of the MRC’s five procedures including the PNPCA and its prior consultation. The member countries and the development partners can raise the issue... should they wish to,” he said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Shane Worrell at shane.worrell@phnompenhpost.com

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