Troubled days lie ahead for one of the Mekong River’s most important stretches.
Nestled between the area’s islands and waterfalls, a Malaysian dam company called Mega First is quietly beginning work towards the construction of the 256 MW Don Sahong Dam, a project slated to be the second mainstream dam on the Lower Mekong River. Located just two kilometers from the Lao-Cambodian border, the Don Sahong Dam would block the Hou Sahong Channel, the only channel of the Mekong that allows for year-round fish migrations both up and down the river. While it may not seem as damaging as a dam that is stretched across the entire Mekong, this very channel is key in maintaining the Mekong’s rich fish resources and biodiversity.
While visiting the site of the Don Sahong Dam last month, I was alarmed at the progress that was being made on the project. We discovered that two nearby channels have already been altered in attempts to improve fish passage. The island of Don Sadam was being prepared to make way for the project’s access roads, along with a bridge to the mainland. Villagers reported to us that company officials said construction would start next year. Despite seeing the company workers come on a regular basis over the past few months and even hiring some villagers to assist in site preparations, most affected people have been left in the dark regarding their future. People are unclear about who will be relocated to make way for the project, when they must move, and whether they will be compensated for their lost access to the Mekong’s fisheries.