As a three-day meeting of the Mekong River Commission focusing on hydropower development started Thursday in Vientiane, a regional alliance of NGOs blasted the commission for failing to publicize critical information on the Mekong dams.
“The MRC has continued to fail in promoting the findings of its own scientific research to the public and to the region’s governments that points towards the fact that extensive hydropower development will threaten the river ecosystems and the livelihoods of riparian communities,” The Rivers Coalition in Cambodia and the Thai People’s Network for Mekong said in a joint statement.
The statement went on to describe the MRC’s shortcomings as resulting in “a vacuum of accountability.”
“It is now time that the MRC’s role is reviewed to ensure it is acting in the manner befitting an objective, scientific river basin management organization that it was set up to be,” according to the statement.
Officials at the MRC, the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology, and the Ministry of Mines and Energy could not be reached for comment Thursday.
The MRC’s consultation in the Lao capital this week brings together hydropower industry, NGO and government representatives of Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos and Thailand, according to a brief posted on the MRC’s Web site.
“Recently the MRC changed its mission into promoting investment,” rather than protecting the environment and coordinating water resources across borders, said Ngy San, deputy executive director of NGO Forum in Phnom Penh and spokesman for The Rivers Coalition.
“Many private institutions are focused on the development,” Ngy San said by telephone Thursday. “[The MRC] should play [its] role to balance” economic interests, he added.
(Additional reporting by Neou Vannarin)