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Lao dam project raises concerns

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A fisherman starts his boat engine as his son looks on along the Mekong River in Luang Prabang, Laos. MRC

Lao dam project raises concerns

Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam have urged Lao to better assess the trans-boundary impacts and strengthen proposed measures to reduce any negative impacts as the 1,460MW Luang Prabang hydropower project moves forward.

At a special joint committee session of the Mekong River Commission (MRC) on June 30, the three countries said they appreciated the Lao government’s submission of the project for prior consultation.

They praised Lao’s cooperation in providing additional data and documents and willingness to accommodate comments and recommendations from member countries, according to a July 1 MRC press release.

“The joint committee called on the Lao government to consider and address the comments and recommendations that were made in a technical review report and the official reply forms of the notified countries.

“The statement reflects stakeholders’ concerns and suggestions gathered from regional and national consultations.

“It houses measures on how to avoid, minimise and mitigate potential adverse impacts from the project development by paying greater focus on coordinated operations of the cascade dams,” MRC committee chairperson Somkiat Prajamwong said in the press release.

Cambodia National Mekong Committee (CNMC) secretary-general So Sophort told The Post on Thursday that because Cambodia is located in the lower Mekong, development could have a negative impact. “The country which owns the project needs to address such impacts,” he said.

Cambodia’s official reply form dated April 2 said Lao needed to further identify the environmental impacts and consider the greater assessment and proper and effective mitigation plans and measures.

“The Government of Lao PDR remains committed to addressing key concerns and welcoming further engagement, information sharing, site visits and joint monitoring to ensure that the project does not cause significant transboundary impacts and that it provides direct and indirect benefits to all parties and stakeholders,” Chanthanet Boualapha, the joint committee member for Lao PDR and head of the Lao delegation said.

Cambodian Youth Network’s research and advocacy programme manager Sar Mory told The Post on Thursday that past experiences have shown that before, hydropower construction input was not collected from relevant stakeholders.

There was no consultation with stakeholders including civil society organisations, particularly from the people who suffered from the impact of hydropower construction, he said.

“There was no clear responsibility for transboundary impacts. In-depth studies had not been done on how hydropower projects built on the Mekong River would be impactful.

“For example, how the Don Sahong Dam and Xayaburi Dam would impact the lower Mekong countries, particularly Cambodia and Vietnam.

“How the dams would impact fishery yields and decrease water levels in the Mekong basin. How the falling water level impacted the people’s livelihoods, fisheries, and agriculture cultivation on Mekong delta soil, are other examples.

“None of these issues was studied in detail,” Mory said.

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