Fisheries Unprotected if Mekong Dams Proceed, MRC Says

There currently exists no means of protecting Cambodia’s fisheries against the damage expected from 12 proposed Mekong river dams, according to a draft report released Monday by the Mekong River Commission.

Proposed measures to combat the effect on local fisheries “cannot mitigate impacts of large downstream dams,” the draft report said. “[I]t is clear that existing mitigation techniques will only address a very small fraction of the dramatic impacts of mainstream Mekong dams on fish resources.”

Only two of the 12 proposed dams are in Cambodia–the Stung Trek Dam in Stung Treng province and the Sambor Dam in Kratie province. However, these downstream dams would be two of the most damaging, the report said, recommending that, if downstream dams are built, construction should be deferred for at least 10 years.

“Postponing would allow for more time to understand the issues involved, and perhaps to mitigate them as well,” said Damian Kean, communications adviser for the MRC.

Cambodian officials were unavailable yesterday for comment on the issue, but last month expressed concern at the possible effects of the proposed dams.

The MRC has already said that these dams could be catastrophic for the fishing industry. The commission said last month that the dams could affect 43 percent of Cambodia’s fisheries, and that the livelihoods of more than one million people could be put at risk by the two Cambodian dams alone.

The new report also suggested that the four MRC member countries might not be able to reap full financial benefit from the new dams, and that they required “better oversight and accountability…to ensure public revenues are maximized.”

Mr Kean was quick to point out, however, that this statement reflected the views of independent experts and not the commission. “It is not the MRC’s place to comment on how countries will make use of the revenue” generated by the dams, he said.

The new 117-page draft report suggests ways in which risks associated with the proposed dams can be avoided or reduced, along with ideas on maximizing potential benefits. It was unveiled at a two-day meeting in Ho Chi Minh City that ended yesterday, Mr Kean said.

This draft report will form the final section of a comprehensive MRC assessment of the dam project. This will be presented in August, Mr Kean said, and is intended to help the involved nations decide whether to go ahead with the project.


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