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Pak Beng inquiry sought

Boats dock on the bank of the Mekong River in northern Laos last year at the planned construction site for the Pak Beng Dam. International rivers
Boats dock on the bank of the Mekong River in northern Laos last year at the planned construction site for the Pak Beng Dam. International Rivers

Pak Beng inquiry sought

Environment Ministry official Eang Sophalleth said yesterday that he has made a request to the Mekong River Commission (MRC) that Laos adequately investigate the potential impacts of the proposed Pak Beng hydropower dam ahead of a meeting this week.

State news agency AKP yesterday reported that Sophalleth’s request “urged a thorough look into environmental, economic and social impacts of the dam construction on the livelihood as well as agricultural practices of people living along the downstream of the Mekong River and linked Tonle Sap Lake”.

Sophalleth clarified yesterday that the request was not made directly to Laos, but was simply “standard procedure”, and made in response to the MRC’s request for comment on the project from Cambodia.

Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam are currently engaged in a six-month consultation period on the dam, which began in December.

All four countries are expected to participate in the consultation, and will meet in Luang Prabang for two days starting tomorrow. One of the meeting’s objectives is to “share information, exchange and document views on the proposed Pak Beng hydropower project”, according to the MRC website.

Hok Menghoin, environment program manager with the NGO Forum, said he looked forward to hearing an impact assessment, but is against any new hydropower dams on the Mekong mainstream.

“The Tonle Sap is very sensitive … it could impact the water supply for the whole country,” Menghoin said, explaining that this could have catastrophic effects on fisheries.

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