Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam alarmed by Laos project

PHNOM PENH: Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam have urged Laos to better assess transboundary impacts, and strengthen proposed measures to reduce any negative effect as it moves ahead with the construction of a dam.

At a special joint committee session of the Mekong River Commission (MRC) earlier this week, the three countries said they appreciated Laos’ submission of the 1,460MW Luang Prabang hydropower project for prior consultation.

According to a MRC press release on July 1, they praised Laos for its cooperation in providing additional data and documents, as well as its willingness to accommodate comments and recommendations from the member countries.

“The committee called on Laos to consider and address the comments and recommendations that were made in a technical review report and the official reply forms of the notified countries.

“The statement reflects stakeholders’ concerns and suggestions gathered from regional and national consultations.

“It houses measures on how to avoid and minimise potential adverse impacts from the development project by having a greater focus on coordinated operations of the cascade dams (in the area),” MRC committee chairman Somkiat Prajamwong said.

Cambodia National Mekong Committee secretary-general So Sophort told The Phnom Penh Post that because Cambodia was located in the lower Mekong, the development could negatively impact the nation.

“The country which owns the project needs to address such impacts,” he said.

Cambodia’s official reply was that Laos needed to further identify the project’s environmental impacts and consider a greater assessment, as well as proper, effective mitigation plans and measures.

“The government of Laos remains committed to addressing key concerns. It welcomes further engagement, information sharing, site visits and joint monitoring to ensure that the project does not cause significant transboundary impact and that it is beneficial to all parties and stakeholders,” Chanthanet Boualapha, the joint committee member for Laos said.

Cambodian Youth Network’s research and advocacy programme manager Sar Mory said past experiences had shown that hydropower construction input was not collected from relevant stakeholders.

There was no consultation with stakeholders including civil society organisations, particularly from the people who suffered from the impact of hydropower construction, he said.

“There was no clear responsibility for transboundary impacts. In-depth studies had not been done on how the hydropower projects built on the Mekong River would be impactful.”

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