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MRC visits Laos dam ahead of May meet

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A boat makes its way down the Mekong River near the proposed Pak Beng Dam site, downstream of Chiang Khong district, Chiang Rai. Pianporn Deetes/International Rivers

MRC visits Laos dam ahead of May meet

Representatives from the four Mekong River Commission (MRC) countries visited the site of the controversial Lao Pak Beng hydropower dam yesterday as officials prepare for the second regional stakeholder meeting next month.

The MRC will hold its second regional stakeholder meeting in Vientiane on May 5. According to a press release, the second meeting will “present the preliminary technical review results of the Pak Beng hydropower project” and seek recommendations from other stakeholders.

Maureen Harris with International Waters said the main purpose of this week’s meet was to evaluate a draft of the technical review to be presented next month.

The MRC is expected to complete its cumulative Council Study report in December, after approving the Pak Beng dam, something Harris said is “extremely troubling”.

“Dams are now being rushed forward on the Mekong mainstream with limited information or attention to the cumulative and basin-wide impacts of constructing multiple projects,” Harris said.

While Harris acknowledged that the MRC has done a better job of distributing project assessments and engaging stakeholders, she said there was still “every indication that Pak Beng is following the same flawed and unaccountable pattern” seen with the similarly controversial Xayaburi dam.

Officials at the Cambodia National Mekong Committee could not be reached yesterday, but Secretary-General Te Navuth has previously said Cambodia will offer a formal conclusion and position on the dam in May.

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