When ministers from the four member countries of the Mekong River Commission (MRC) and donors meet in Luang Prabang, Laos this week, the future role of the agency will be on the table.
Questions about the effectiveness of the MRC, set up in 1995 to jointly manage sustainable development, have been raised by Laos’ decision in November to go ahead with the US$3.5-billion (101 billion baht) Xayaburi dam.
The decision came despite concerns from member governments, environmental groups and donors about the dam’s downstream impact on fish migration and sediment flows, which could affect two million people who are dependent on the river for their livelihoods.
At the commission’s last ministerial meeting in December 2011, Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam called for a delay to allow further studies on the environmental impact of the dam, the first to be built on the lower Mekong. China has built four dams on the upper portions of the river already.