ASEAN KEY DESTINATIONS
Mekong dam decision deferred to ministerial level
The decision comes as the increasing submission of evidence to the commission highlights risks to biodiversity, fisheries and the livelihoods of 60 million people in the Mekong River Basin. Fisheries and the Mekong Delta are particularly vulnerable.
A World Wildlife Fund (WWF)-commissioned review of the Xayaburi project found that the Environmental Impact Assessment and Feasibility Study for the proposed dam were inadequate, falling below international standards for such studies. Changes in flows, sediment and nutrients need to be further studied.
“Any decision made will have implications for generations to come,” says Jian-hua Meng, Ph.D., WWF International Sustainable Hydropower Specialist. “It is clear that the governments of Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam are acknowledging the gaps in knowledge of the expected impacts from the dam.”
An experts meeting held in Vientiane in 2008 to review the impact of mainstream dams on fish migration concluded that existing mitigation technology used for salmon species in Europe and North America cannot handle the scale of fish diversity and migration in the Mekong mainstream. Many believe that the Mekong should not be used as a test case for proving or improving fish passage technologies.
Earlier, the MRC had recommended 10-year moratorium on the approval of lower Mekong mainstream dams, including the Xayaburi hydropower dam, to ensure a comprehensive understanding of all the impacts of their construction and operation. Immediate energy needs could be met with less challenging projects applying state of the art sustainable hydropower solutions fast tracked on selected tributaries.
“The MRC has taken an important step towards responsible decision-making and is clearly looking at the potential impacts the Xayaburi dam would have on millions of people in the Mekong River Basin,” Dr. Meng said. “Laos needs to build on the knowledge gained in developing sustainable hydropower in the region and follow examples such as the Nam Theun 2 dam.
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