News / Asia

    Cambodia, Vietnam Voice Concern at Mekong River Commission Meeting

    Gabrielle Paluch
    Representatives from Southeast Asia countries are meeting in Laos this week to discuss development projects on the Mekong River. A key issue for the Mekong River Commission has been evaluating a planned hydropower dam in Laos that environmentalists worry could damage river ecosystems that millions of people downstream depend on.
     
    During this weeks talks, representatives from Vietnam and Cambodia objected to how Laos carried out the consultation process before starting construction on the Xayaburi dam - the first to obstruct the main stem of the Mekong river.
     
    Officials from the nations are not commenting on the record, but others who attended the talks say Vietnam requested a 10-year moratorium on decisions over mainstream dams, saying authorities have not sufficiently studied how they can impact people downstream.
     
    Construction on the Xayaburi dam was officially announced last November, more than a year after actual construction had begun - without member state consensus, and in violation of the 1995 Mekong agreement
     
    Pianporn Deetes is the Thailand campaign coordinator for International Rivers, a non-governmental organization that monitors the Mekong.

    “Concerns raised by member countries have not been addressed comprehensively. Important to also recognize the concern raised by affected communities which represent 60 million people in all four countries," he said. "It's not just lives of a few people but 60 million and we applaud Cambodia and Vietnam for upholding their responsibility in the 1995 Mekong Agreement."
     
    Although the Lao government has grand plans to become the "battery" of Asia, and the power produced by the $3.5 billion hydroelectric dam would mean critical income for an economy with an annual GDP of roughly $8 billion, environmentalists worry the project could threaten the lives and livelihoods of communities downstream.
     
    International Rivers estimates over 70% of the protein consumed by Cambodians is sourced in the Mekong River.
     
    Former Thai MP Kraisak Choonhavan believes the responsibility for the rush to construction lies with Thai corporations who have chosen to disregard the social impacts of their investments.  "The Xayaburi project is all financed by Thais and Thai banks and Thai construction and Thai corporate interests. That is putting Laos on the brink of a social disaster. Tens of thousands of people have been moved and there's no representation," he said.
     
    Although Thailand's demand for electricity, and the economic benefits of the dam are undeniable, activists believe it is not yet too late to halt the project.
     
    Mark Goichot, who works for the World Wildlife Fund on sustainable hydropower projects in Laos, says the Lao government may not fully realize the impact this dam could have on its ecosystem and neighbors, but that the Vietnam and Cambodian governments have made demands that cannot be denied.
     
    "Yes in principle it would be difficult not to follow this very strong recommendation. It will go on unless studies demonstrate that the impacts are significant," said Goichot. "We do not think it is too late to stop it. Concerns are growing and opposition is still very strong to the project so it is more and more difficult to justify it."
     
    Donors and member countries of the commission visited the construction site of the Xayaburi dam Friday to inspect its progress. In the past, the MRC has been criticized for lacking the means or the ability to make the Lao government adhere to the organization's recommendations

    You May Like

    US, Somalia Launch New Chapter in Relations

    US sends first ambassador to Somalia in 25 years; diplomatic presence and forces pulled out in 1993, after 18 US soldiers were killed when militiamen shot down military helicopter

    Brexit Vote Ripples Across South Asia

    Experts say exit is likely to have far-reaching economic, political and social implications for a region with deep historic ties to Britain

    Russian Military Tests Readiness With Snap Inspections

    Some observers see surprise drill as tit-for-tat response to NATO’s recent multinational military exercises in Baltic region

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Testing Bamboo as Building Materiali
    X
    June 27, 2016 9:06 PM
    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video New York Pride March A Celebration of Life, Mourning of Loss

    At this year’s march in New York marking the end of pride week, a record-breaking crowd of LGBT activists and allies marched down Manhattan's Fifth Avenue, in what will be long remembered as a powerful display of solidarity and remembrance for the 49 victims killed two weeks ago in an Orlando gay nightclub.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapides’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora