NGOs call on Laos to scrap Mekong dam project

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A coalition of NGOs and local groups has called for the cancellation of a planned hydropower dam plan on the lower Mekong River.

In a letter dated October 13 to the Mekong River Commission (MRC), a river basin management organization directed by the governments of Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam, Save the Mekong called on the region's governments to cancel the Xayaboury Dam project in Laos.

The coalition also urged for a halt to the project's Procedures for Notification, Prior Consultation and Agreement (PNPCA) process, a requirement under the 1995 Mekong Agreement for countries to jointly review any dam proposed for the Mekong mainstream that is coordinated through the MRC.

"We write to convey our complete disagreement with the initiation of the PNPCA process for the Xayaboury dam on the Mekong River's mainstream," Save the

Mekong wrote in the letter co-signed by 24 civil society and people's networks and NGOs from the Mekong region and internationally.

In response to Thanh Nien Weekly's request for comments, MRC spokesman Khy Lim only said: "We are preparing a response to Save the Mekong. And we will get back to you as soon as we have it."

"Abundant evidence produced by the MRC itself has already demonstrated the Xayaboury dam to be exceptionally destructive, and a project that should not go ahead," the letter said.

The Xayaboury dam would have been the first dam to be built on the lower Mekong Mainstream. It would submerge the homes of 2,130 people from 10 villages in Laos and a further 200,000 people located near the dam in Laos and Thailand would suffer impacts to their livelihoods, income and food security.

The dam would also harm the river's ecosystem, blocking fish migration along the river's upper reaches with consequences that would be felt throughout the Mekong River basin. Up to 41 fish species would be at risk of extinction, including the critically endangered and iconic Mekong Giant Catfish, the coalition said.

The coalition criticized the MRC for "a complete failure of transparency" because the intergovernmental body has not made the dam's project documents available to the general public. It further accused the MRC's PNPCA process of being ambiguous and having no commitment to consult with the public.

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