Dam Plans Cause for Concern in Stung Treng

Villagers living along the Sekong River in Stung Treng province could face serious hardships if a Vietnamese company goes ahead with plans to build a $273 million dam in Laos, a pro­vincial official said Tuesday.

The dam and hydroelectric power plant would be built on the Sekong in the Laotian province of Attapeu and would export most of its electricity to Vietnam, Agence France-Presse reported Monday.

The Sekong, a major tributary of the Mekong River, flows into Stung Treng and meets up with the Se San River near the provincial capital before joining the Mekong. Pheng Kim, second dep­uty governor of Stung Treng province, said the project could have the same negative effect as several dams built in recent years along the Yali Falls section of the Se San River in Vietnam.

The dams have brought drastic and sudden changes in water levels, causing thousands of villagers downriver in Ratanakkiri province and Stung Treng to lose farm animals and their homes. Many have given up living near the precarious Se San and have turned to clearing the forest to earn a living, Pheng Kim said.

“This is my private idea: I want to appeal to other countries that want to construct a dam for hy­dro­electricity in order to develop their country and ask them to consider the negative impact they could have on their neighbors,” she said.

“People are suffering because they don’t know when the dam will release its water.”

Touch Seang Tana, a government fisheries expert and a Council of Ministers undersecretary of state, said he had not heard of the latest dam project.

But he said the dam could have “strong” consequences for the Sekong and Mekong’s water levels and quality, as well as its fish breeding potential.

Already this year, the Mekong is lower because of dams up­stream in China, which have caused a drop in the number of fish caught in Cambodia, he said.

The Vietnam-Laos Joint Stock In­vestment and Development Co plans to build as many as five hydroelectric power plants on the Sekong, AFP reported. The first dam is expected to be operational in December 2008.

Officials at the Vietnamese Embassy and the government’s National Mekong River Com­mit­tee could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.


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