Mekong Countries Agree to Expedite Dam Study

The Mekong River Commission’s (MRC) study on the potential long-term effects of large-scale dam building on the Mekong River needs to be expedited, members of the MRC agreed at the Fifth Mekong-Japan Summit in Tokyo on Saturday.

However, they did not set a date for the completion of the study or agree to abide by its recommendations.

According to an official statement issued after the summit, leaders of the MRC nations “reaffirmed the vital importance of sustainable management and development of water and related resources of the Mekong River.”

“To this end, the MRC was encouraged to expedite the studies on sustainable management and development of the Mekong River, including impacts by mainstream hydropower projects,” it continues.

In 2011 regional leaders agreed to participate in the MRC Council Study, but it is still unfinished and Laos has unilaterally forged ahead with the massive Xayaburi hydropower dam without a full understanding of the risks to downstream countries. Laos has also announced that a second mainstream dam, the Don Sahong dam, will go ahead without regional consultation.

Environmental groups continue to emphasize the importance of the MRC Council Study, but there are increasing doubts about the MRC’s ability to ever complete it.

“The Mekong Council Study has clearly reached deadlock, two years on and there is nothing to show for it,” Ame Trandem, Southeast Asia program director for International Rivers, said in a press statement on Friday.

“Science can no longer take a back seat in decisions over the region’s shared resource,” Ms. Trandem said, adding that all mainstream dam projects must be halted until the MRC Council Study is completed.

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