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

Is Air Travel Safe?

Aviation expert says despite tragic losses of Malaysian Airlines flights 370 and 17, industry experienced lowest fatality rate in recorded history last year More

Multimedia 100 Days Later, Nigerian Girls Still Held

Activists holding rallies in Nigeria and several other countries to mark 100th day of captivity for more than 200 schoolgirls being held by Boko Haram More

Chocolate Too Bitter? Swap Sugar for Mushrooms

US food technology company develops fermentation process using mushrooms to reduce bitterness in cocoa beans, believes it will cut sugar content in candy More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Carriers Suspend Travel to Israeli
X
Carolyn Presutti
July 23, 2014 1:21 AM
The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video US Carriers Suspend Travel to Israel

The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video NASA Focuses on Earth-Like Planets

For decades, looking for life elsewhere in the universe meant listening for signals that could be from distant civilizations. But recent breakthroughs in space technology refocused some of that effort toward finding planets that may harbor life, even in its primitive form. VOA’s George Putic reports on a recent panel discussion at NASA’s headquarters, in Washington.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video US Awards Medal of Honor for Heroics in Bloodiest of Afghan Battles

U.S. combat troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan, on pace to leave the country by the end of this year. But on Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama took time to honor a soldier whose actions while under fire in Afghanistan earned him the Medal of Honor. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.

AppleAndroid