In the wake of the Laos government’s decision this week to proceed with the Don Sahong dam on the Mekong River mainstream, bypassing the Mekong River Commission (MRC) process for consultation, WWF calls on Lower Mekong ministers to hold an emergency meeting.
“The MRC was effectively broken in November last year when Laos decided unilaterally to proceed with the controversial Xayaburi dam, against the express wishes of Vietnam and Cambodia,” said WWF International Director General Jim Leape. “It is impossible to imagine that the Mekong River can be harnessed sustainably without the MRC functioning properly, ensuring joint decisions are reached on dam developments that are to the benefit of all.
“The four Lower Mekong countries must immediately revisit the spirit of the original MRC agreement and meet urgently to resolve their differences and fix the consultation process before any other dam projects are considered. If the countries fail to get serious about their obligation to cooperate, they risk sabotaging both the MRC and management of one of the world’s great rivers.”
On the 30 September 2013, the Laos government notified the MRC – an inter-governmental agency made up of representatives from the four Lower Mekong countries – of its decision to proceed with the development of the Don Sahong hydropower project in the Siphandone area of southern Laos. The Don Sahong dam will block the only channel available for dry-season fish migrations on the Mekong River, putting the world’s largest inland fishery at risk.
The project’s construction is expected to start next month and be finished by February 2018. Under the MRC agreement, all dams on the mainstream of the Mekong, which include the Don Sahong and Xayaburi dams, should go through the MRC’s consultation process. This process allows for a minimum 6-month consultation with other countries to review the development projects with an aim to reach consensus on whether they should proceed.