Over 18 million people live off the natural bounty of the The Mekong Delta, writes Tom Fawthrop - the source of huge annual harvests of fish, rice, fruit, and one of the world's most productive ecosystems. But now huge dams threaten to strangle the Mekong river and the abundant life it supports, while the world sits idly by.
Environmental Impact Assessment Policy and Practice in the Mekong Region: Safeguarding Sustainable Development
Summary of the Workshop
A public consultation organized by the Mekong River Commission was held in Pakse, Laos, last week, where opponents continued to call for Laos to reconsider a controversial dam project.
Malaysia’s Mega First Corporation, a company tasked with building the Don Sahong dam, briefed regional participants on its social and environmental impacts, in the meeting on Friday.
But officials from Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam remain skeptical of their findings of no significant impact or threat to fish population or migration.
Government and civil society representatives highlighted the need for strong and inclusive environmental impact assessment (EIA) policies and practices in the Mekong region at a meeting this week in Bangkok, Thailand.
This move, via national consultation forums, comes in response to controversy over many dams built on the river now affecting people in many states, especially those in downstream areas.
"We will listen to local people's opinions," Chaiporn Siripornpibul said as representative of the Thai National Mekong Committee and inspector for Thailand's Natural Resources and Environment Ministry.
Activists have urged Cambodia and Vietnam to use the Mekong River Commission's second high-level summit this weekend to take a stand against a controversial dam project in Laos.
The prime ministers of the four member countries - Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam - are to meet Saturday in Ho Chi Minh City to review development projects for the Mekong river, including the divisive Xayaburi dam in Laos.
Activists believe the 3.8-billion-dollar project will destabilise the river’s ecosystem. Developers say however that there are ways to mitigate the dam's environmental impact.
On Monday, officials and journalists visited the site of the proposed Don Sahong Dam in southern Laos, at the invitation of the Lao Ministry of Energy and Mines and the Lao National Mekong Committee. The visit was an attempt to sell the project to neighbouring countries despite the absence of a regional agreement or proven measures to mitigate environmental or social impacts of the project. International Rivers is concerned that the Don Sahong Dam poses significant risks to the future of the Mekong River and to regional cooperation.
Environmentalists and NGOs are threatening to sue developers of a controversial hydropower dam, claiming the project would cause irreversible damage to the Mekong River.
The Don Sahong dam, a 260-megawatt project proposed on a site less than two kilometres north of the Cambodian-Lao border, is expected to begin construction this month.
Members of Save the Mekong Coalition gathered yesterday at a conference urging a moratorium on the dam until further studies could be conducted.
The government has stepped up plans to enhance its compliance with the 1995 Mekong Agreement by conducting seminars in provinces across the country to disseminate the agreement's content.
Secretary General of the Lao National Mekong Committee Secretariat, Ms Monemany Nhoybouakong, reiterated that the government has attached great importance to sustainable development of the Mekong by observing the agreement, which Laos and other Mekong River Commission (MRC) countries signed.
For visitors, China’s water problem becomes apparent upon entering the hotel room. The smell of a polluted river might emanate from the showerhead. Need to quench your thirst? The drip from the tap is rarely potable. Can you trust the bottled water? Many Chinese don’t. What about brushing your teeth?