International Donors Call for Redesign of Sesan 2 Hydro Dam

International donors, including the U.S., Australia, the European Union and the World Bank, have urged the Cambo­dian government to redesign a massive hydropower project in Stung Treng province that environmentalists say will deplete fisheries and submit it to the Mekong River Commission (MRC) for consultation.

In a joint statement dated June 28 and released Wednesday, the donors said the 400-MW Lower Sesan 2 dam—which will be located on two Mekong River tributaries—would have widespread impacts on the fisheries and affect thousands of villagers living in Thailand, Vietnam and Laos.

“Given the potentially detrimental regional effects of the Lower Sesan 2 dam in its current design (including on fish migration, sediment flow and the resettlement of local communities), Development Partners urge the Royal Government of Cambodia to reconsider the project’s design,” the statement says.

The controversial project, located at the confluence of the Sesan and Srepok rivers, has drawn criticism from scientists and NGOs for its widespread social and environmental impacts. They expect it to cause a 9 percent drop in fish stock for the en­tire Mekong River basin, displace more than 5,000 villagers and im­pact more than 100,000 residents living up and downstream from the dam.

Due to these concerns, the donors are calling for Cambodia to “voluntarily submit” the project for a regional consultation process so the MRC’s four countries can discuss ways to limit negative effects of the dam. “Development Partners stand ready to support the Royal Government of Cambodia’s efforts to improve the performance and sustainability of this project,” the statement says.

Donors also asked Laos to submit redesign plans for the 1,285-MW Xayaburi dam, as well as the environmental impact assessment for the Don Sahong dam, which is located in Laos about 2 km from the Cambodian border.

Laos has previously said that it redesigned the Xayaburi dam to make it more sustainable, but the plans have not been made public.

Ame Trandem, Southeast Asia program director for International Rivers, said that submitting the Lower Sesan 2 dam project to the MRC for consultation is “the responsible thing to do.” “Dams such as the Xayaburi and Lower Sesan 2 risk jeopardizing regional commitments and the Mekong River,” Ms. Trandem said. “While the Lao government has ignored its responsibilities, the risks are too great for Cambodia to do the same.”

Siek Mekong, chief of Srekor commune—which will be flooded by the Lower Sesan 2 dam’s 36,000-hectare reservoir—welcomed the donors’ statement Wednesday.

“The Lower Sesan 2 dam just benefits the individual [companies] and not the community or the country as a whole,” Mr. Mekong said. “We hope the MRC will look critically into the huge impacts and reach the conclusion that the dam construction should be canceled.”

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