A coalition of NGOs from the Mekong region called on the Mekong River Commission yesterday to halt its procedures for discussing the first Mekong River dam, saying the process lacked accountability and was being conducted without transparency.
In an open letter to MRC CEO Jeremy Bird, Save The Mekong, a coalition of 24 NGOs, called on the commission to stop the official process of notifying MRC members of Laos’ plan to build the 1,260-megawatt Xayaboury Dam across the Mekong River.
The notifications for the dam, located north of Vientiane, started Sept 22 and marked the first time that a Mekong dam was put up for discussion in the MRC.
MRC members Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand and Laos have to reach consensus on whether or not to move forward with the proposed dam by mid-March.
Save The Mekong criticized the notification process for the dam, saying it “is poorly prepared, fails in commitments to transparency and public accountability, and overall lacks credibility.”
The group, which includes Cambodian NGOs 3-S River Protection Network and NGO Forum, said that project documents on the dam and an impact study for the 11 dams planned on the Lower Mekong had not been publicly released, even though the notification process had already started.
It also said explanations of MRC procedures for reaching a decision on Mekong dams were “deliberately ambiguous” and showed “no commitment to consultation with the public.”
The Xayaboury Dam, the group warned, would displace thousands of people, impact livelihoods, block fish migration routes and have “consequences that would be felt throughout the Mekong River basin.”
Pich Dun, secretary-general of the Cambodia National Mekong River Committee, said the NGOs’ criticism was premature, as even the MRC governments had not yet received all documents relating the dam and its impact.
“The NGOs I think complain too early,” he said, “When we receive the documents than we will see if the [project] documents cover all requirements.”
However, CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap said he was “very worried” about the planned Mekong dams due to their potential impact on Cambodian fisheries.
Mr Yeap said that in his role as lawmaker he would ask “experts to explain about the impacts of the dams.”
The MRC could not be reached for comment yesterday.