Communities to Stage Four-Day Protest to Stop Don Sahong Dam

About 600 people are scheduled on Saturday to start a four-day protest that will include marches and boat trips to call for construction of the controversial Don Sahong dam on the Cambodian-Lao border to be halted.

The 256 MW dam, located just 1.5 km from the Cambodian border, will put at risk the entire ecosystem of the Lower Mainstream Mekong as it will block the only channel in southern Laos that allows year-round fish migration, environmentalists have said. About 80 percent of fish in the Lower Mainstream Mekong are migratory.

To oppose the Don Sahong, as well as dams on the mainstream in general, more than 200 are expected to go to a dolphin pool just south of the dam site on the first day of the protest.

“In Kratie province we will campaign by boat along the river and hold banners with slogans that will say ‘No Hydro Power Dams on the Mainstream Mekong River, the River is Our Life,” Youk Senglong, program manager at the Fisheries Action Coalition Team, one of the organizers, said on Friday.

The highly sensitive and critically endangered freshwater dolphins will likely be extinct if dams such as the Don Sahong go ahead, the WWF has said. The protests, which will also include marches in Stung Treng province, where several dams are planned in the 3S River basin, and in Kompong Cham province, will continue through Tuesday.

Next weekend, high-ranking government officials from Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos and Thailand are scheduled to meet in Ho Chi Minh City, where they are expected to discuss the Don Sahong dam.

“I think this will send a message that we have to pressure the Lao government to halt their project,” Phoy Vanna, a 47-year-old fisherman who will participate in the protests, said on Friday.

Laos has said that the dam would go ahead, while Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia are opposing its construction.

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