Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Gov’t prods Laos on dam

Gov’t prods Laos on dam

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Deputy Prime Minister of Laos Somsavat Lengsavad (centre top) talks with Deputy Prime Minister Hor Namhong (centre bottom) about the Don Sahong dam yesterday in Phnom Penh. Pha Lina

Gov’t prods Laos on dam

A visiting Laotian senior official yesterday moved to allay concerns over the Don Sahong hydropower dam, expected to begin construction within months, though Cambodia again insisted further studies on the project’s environmental impact were needed.

In a bilateral meeting at the Foreign Ministry in Phnom Penh, Laos’s Deputy Prime Minister Somsavat Lengsavad and Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong discussed the controversial 260 megawatt plant, slated to be built about 2 kilometres north of the Kingdom’s border.

According to Namhong, Lengsavad cited studies which found the dam would have “no environmental impact”.

In response, Namhong said he pushed for more research into fish migration and water flow, noting millions of people’s lives depend on the Mekong and Tonle Sap.

However, the foreign minister also said that he acknowledged Laos’s “sovereign right” to begin construction before the end of the year, as per its announcement last month.

“I explained to Somsavat that the Tonle Sap is the lifeblood of the Cambodian people,” Namhong said.

“The water from the Mekong flows into the Tonle Sap, and within that period, the fish spawn eggs. When the water flows back down the Mekong, it is the period for catching fish.”

Namhong even personalised the issue.

“Prahok from the Tonle Sap is a priority food for Cambodians; it’s even my food every evening. I need to have a plate of prahok,” he said, referring to the commonly eaten fish-paste dish.

Environmental groups argue the hydro-plant – to be built by Malaysian developer MegaFirst – will harm the Mekong’s hydrology and ecology, including the endangered Mekong Irrawaddy dolphin population in Stung Treng province.

During the project’s consultation period last year, conducted through the Mekong River Commission (MRC), Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam all called on Laos to halt construction to allow further research.

In September – after its parliament approved the project – the Laotian government released a 22-page document titled Don Sahong made simple, addressing concerns surrounding the project.

The paper says work to improve other channels – including widening sections, removing fish traps, flattening waterfalls and cascades – would mitigate the impact on fish migration through the Hou Sahong channel, where work has already begun on access roads for the facility.

But International Rivers Southeast Asia program director Ame Trandem said yesterday that Laos had attempted to “green wash” the project.

She urged construction be pushed back by two years to allow for the necessary research, including more baseline data collection and a transboundary environmental impact assessment.

“Any decisions on how to proceed with the Don Sahong dam should be based on regional agreement from all four Mekong governments and their people,” she said.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY SHAUN TURTON

MOST VIEWED

  • Sihanoukville building collapse death toll rises to 19

    Minister of Interior Sar Kheng said on Sunday that the government will act against those responsible for the collapse of a seven-storey building in Sihanoukville on Saturday, which resulted in 19 dead and 24 injured as of Sunday evening. Sar Kheng said three Chinese nationals and one

  • Gov’t to probe Chinese exports to US via Sihanoukville

    The government is investigating allegations that Chinese companies are using Chinese-owned special economic zones in Cambodia to export goods to the US and avoid tariffs, said Ministry of Commerce spokesman Seang Thay. The move comes after US embassy spokesman Arend Zwartjes said the US had

  • Banh: The Khmer Rouge worse than sanctions and pressure

    Minister of National Defence Tea Banh said on Thursday that having sanctions and external pressure placed on Cambodia was not worse than life under the brutal Khmer Rouge regime. Tea Banh, who is also deputy prime minister, was speaking to military and ruling party officials

  • Funcinpec ‘set to sell their headquarters’, says source

    An anonymous source from Funcinpec said acting president Prince Norodom Chakravuth had held a meeting with other officials to discuss selling several of the party headquarters across the country while the party president Prince Norodom Ranariddh receives medical treatment at the Royal Phnom Penh Hospital