Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - No agreement on Laos dam

No agreement on Laos dam

A man fishes at part of the Mekong River where the proposed Don Sahong dam project would be constructed in southern Laos.  INTERNATIONAL RIVERS
A man fishes at part of the Mekong River where the proposed Don Sahong dam project would be constructed in southern Laos. INTERNATIONAL RIVERS

No agreement on Laos dam

A meeting between the four member states of the Mekong River Commission (MRC) over the controversial Don Sahong hydropower dam yielded no consensus yesterday, meaning that Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam will have to take their misgivings over the Lao project to the commission’s highest body.

All three neighbouring countries have asserted that Laos is obliged under MRC regulations to submit to a round of prior consultation and allow technical assessments of the dam’s impact due to the fact that the dam is situated on the Mekong’s mainstream – a contention that Laos continued to deny yesterday, according to an MRC statement released after the meeting.

“At the meeting, Cambodia, Thailand and Viet Nam insisted that the project should undergo the Prior Consultation process. They raised particular concerns on the project’s potential impacts on fish migration routes as the Hou Sahong has been the major migration channel for fish to migrate in the dry season,” the statement reads. “Lao PDR clarified that two channels adjacent to the Hou Sahong, Hou Sadam and Hou Xangphuaek, can be used as alternative fish migration routes.”

However, Cambodian delegation leader Te Navuth was quoted as saying if those alternative routes don’t work, “the dam will have impacts on food security and nutrition in Cambodia”.

Due to the lack of agreement, the matter of whether the dam falls on the Mekong mainstream – and therefore requires prior consultation – will now go before the MRC Council, which is comprised of the water and environment ministers of the member countries. But despite being the MRC’s highest governance body, the Council has no legal authority to compel Laos to halt the dam and consent to consultation, said MRC Secretariat communications officer Surasak Glahan.

“If they still have divergent views [after the Council meeting], they can still ask the governments of the four countries to consider the issue,” Surasak said via email. “If this cannot be resolved at the government level, they can seek international arbitration (but this has never happened).”

Though the dam’s proposed site is located in an area where the Mekong’s stream is split into channels by dozens of islands, “there’s no question that this is the mainstream Mekong,” said Ame Trandem, Southeast Asia program director of NGO International Rivers.

“If Laos wants to act in good faith, it should go through prior consultation,” she said.

“This channel is the most important channel in that area for fish migrations,” Trandem said.

MOST VIEWED

  • Government hits back at threats to pull EBA, suspend UN seat

    The spokesman for the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) has said the government is in no way concerned after the European Parliament gave it three months to reverse what it called the “systematic repression of the political opposition”. Ignoring the ultimatum could mean facing

  • Chinese influx pushing locals, Westerners out of Preah Sihanouk

    Some within the Kingdom’s tourism industry have speculated that the recent influx of Chinese visitors may hinder domestic tourism as the price of accommodations in the coastal city of Sihanoukville continues to rise. Preah Sihanouk province, which has become a hotbed for Chinese investment

  • Sar Kheng: Sokha requested security

    Interior Minister Sar Kheng on Sunday revealed the story behind the transfer of former opposition party leader Kem Sokha from Trapaing Phlong prison in Tbong Khmum province to his house in the capital. Speaking at the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) headquarters in Prey

  • ‘Dire consequences’ from sanctions, warns AmCham

    American businesspeople in Cambodia have warned that any sanction against the Kingdom would have “dire consequences” that could push Cambodia even further into the arms of China. In a letter to US senators and representatives dated Monday, the American Chamber of Commerce Cambodia (AmCham) said