World Bank Endorses Study Critical Of Mekong Dam Plans

The World Bank announced last week it would not fund any of the 11 proposed hydropower dams on the Lower Mekong River and said a recent Mekong River Commission study calling for a 10-year wait before constructing any Mekong dam, offered “important information.”

“[T]he World Bank Group has no plan to invest in hydro projects on the mainstream of the Mekong,” the Bank said in a news release Friday.

On Sept 22 Laos informed the MRC of its plan to build the 1,260-megawatt Xayaboury Dam, for which it has secured funding. MRC members Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand and Laos have until March to decide whether or not to go ahead with the Xayaboury.

The MRC’s Strategic Environmental Assessment, released Oct 15, recommends a 10-year deferral for developing any dams on the river due to uncertainties about the scale and irreversibility of risks of hydropower projects.

Annette Dixon, the Bank’s South East Asia Country Director, said the assessment “offers an important new body of information on the Mekong and the potential impacts of these projects.”

The Bank added it would continue to support hydropower project on Mekong tributaries if developed “in a responsible and sustainable manner.” In the past the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank have financed the $1.45-billion Nam Theun 2 Dam, located on a Mekong tributary in Laos.

Civil society groups across the region have called on MRC countries to abandon the proposed Mekong dams, saying the projects would wipe out fisheries and disrupt natural flood patterns, affecting millions of livelihoods downstream.

Ame Trandem, Mekong campaigner for environmental group International Rivers, welcomed the World Bank’s endorsement of the SEA report, saying it “signifies the growing recognition, both regionally and internationally, of the severity of impacts and risks [Mekong dams] pose to the region’s security and stability.”

“[T]he decision-making process of the Xayaboury dam should be postponed until…the region’s governments and people have had enough time to adequately consider the report and its recommendation,” she said.

Cambodia National Mekong River Committee secretary-general Pich Dun said he could offer little reaction to the Bank’s announcement on Mekong dams.

“This is their view,” he said.


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