January 24, 2013
Mekong River Commission (MRC) member countries are not urging Laos to halt construction of the Xayaboury dam in northern Laos as has been reported in some foreign media outlets.
At meetings of MRC members held in Luang Prabang province, Laos, last week, none of the three members who are Laos’ immediate neighbours voiced opposition to the Xayaboury hydropower project, which is now under construction in Xayaboury province.
Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam agreed that Laos should continue to improve the design of the run-of-river dam with a special focus on minimising the impacts on sediment flows and fish migration.
They also called for a comprehensive study of all development activity along the Mekong River, closer monitoring of development projects, and wider dissemination of information regarding development.
According to a statement by the Vietnamese Deputy Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, Dr Nguyen Thai Lai, provided to the MRC meetings, Vietnam expressed concern about the possible adverse impacts of the Xayaboury project and other developments on the Mekong.
He called on all four countries, and MRC development partners, to support implementation of the Study on Sustainable Management and Development of the Mekong River.
The study will assess the relationship of six impacts on the use of Mekong River water: irrigation, agriculture and land use, domestic and industrial use, flood protection structures, hydropower and transport.
Permanent Vice-Chairman of the Cambodian National Mekong Committee, Mr Sin Niny, said in a statement that Cambodia encourages MRC members and donors to mobilise all resources and efforts to support the implementation of the study.
He told donors he would ensure that sound Mekong River Basin development planning and management could be done jointly and in a sustainable way, for the sake of the riparian countries.
Deputy Minister of Energy and Mines Mr Viraphonh Viravong said the Lao government joins other MRC countries in wanting to accelerate the comprehensive study “so that all the impacts – not only hydropower – will be assessed in order to help ensure sustainable development on the Mekong River.”
He added that Laos also wants a flow of information and data to be established for more effective monitoring of development in the Basin.
“There is a mountain of information with us and we want to make sure that we can hand over the relevant information to the concerned organisations,” he said.
Mr Viraphonh, who is Vice Chairman of the Lao National Mekong Committee, questioned the motives of those in media and international organisations who continue to suggest that some MRC member countries are calling for a halt to the Xayaboury project.
“We don’t understand why the foreign media and some NGOs insist on pitting MRC member countries against each other when the facts, the minutes and the proceedings of meetings clearly show that the member countries are not opposed. The Lao government has a responsibility to develop national hydropower resources in a sustainable manner for the benefit of our people, but those who continue to voice opposition have no responsibility to the Lao people.”