Conservation group International Rivers yesterday demanded the Mekong River Commission (MRC) address concerns over Laos’ proposed Don Sahong hydropower dam at their annual meeting in Vientiane next week, citing the project’s “rapid” progress.
“It is critical that the MRC break their silence regarding next steps for the regional decision-making process over the Don Sahong Dam,” said Pianporn Deetes, Thailand campaign coordinator for International Rivers (IR).
“The MRC has a responsibility to ensure that the concerns of Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam are not swept under the rug.”
However, MRC spokesman Federico Edmundo said that because meetings on Monday and Tuesday were not a gathering of the Joint Committee, which includes representatives of Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam, Don Sahong would not be on the agenda.
He said donors and MRC staff would discuss program funding and updates, however, Don Sahong may be raised during a progress report on the implementation of the five MRC Procedures, including the Procedures for Notification Prior Consultation and Agreement.
At the last MRC Joint Committee meeting in January, the Cambodian, Thai and Vietnamese governments expressed concern about the dam’s impact on the lower Mekong and demanded it be postponed to allow further studies.
Critics say the 260-megawatt project, to be developed by Malaysian company Mega First 2 kilometres north of the Cambodian border, would block the river’s flow, which in turn would disrupt the passage of migratory fish, damage the local ecological environment and negatively impact the livelihood of locals.
IR’s Southeast Asia program director Ame Trandem called for an emergency MRC meeting, saying Laos was “taking advantage” of the committee’s inaction and pushing ahead with negotiations with China’s Sinohydro International Corporation over the contracts for construction.
Meanwhile, Laos’s National Assembly, which began sessions on June 7, was expected to have discussed the project’s concession agreement, she said.