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Groups discuss impact of upcoming Laos dam

NGO Forum Director Tek Vannara speaks to the press about Laos’s Pak Beng dam yesterday in Phnom Penh.
NGO Forum Director Tek Vannara speaks to the press about Laos’s Pak Beng dam yesterday in Phnom Penh. Heng Chivoan

Groups discuss impact of upcoming Laos dam

A coalition of youth and community groups yesterday held a meeting in Phnom Penh to discuss the controversial Pak Beng dam in Laos, issuing a request for its construction to be halted until after an impact assessment expected from the Mekong River Committee (MRC) is released.

Tek Vannara, director of NGO Forum, which represents 52 local and international groups, said the request to halt construction had been submitted to the MRC and the Lao government.

“The development of the Pak Beng dam is a project that will affect the fishing industry and livelihood of the people who are living at the lower and upper parts of Mekong River,” said Im Sophat, a representative of Cambodian Volunteers for Society, after the NGO Forum meeting.

The study is due to be released at the end of this year and is meant to be a basin-wide assessment of all hydropower dams, irrigation and even climate change. Past impact assessments issued by the MRC have been criticised for not addressing the cumulative effects of building multiple dams.

The committee this month held its final stakeholder meeting on the Pak Beng dam, and is set to meet again next week to conclude the consultation process and allow construction to begin.

The MRC, which itself has no power to halt dam construction, could not be reached.

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