News / Asia

    Parties Polarized After Consultation on Laos' Don Sahong Dam

    FILE - Cambodian non-governmental organization (NGOs) activists hold a cut-out of Mekong dolphin, left, and cut-out of other species during a protest against a proposed Don Sahong dam, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
    FILE - Cambodian non-governmental organization (NGOs) activists hold a cut-out of Mekong dolphin, left, and cut-out of other species during a protest against a proposed Don Sahong dam, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
    Ron Corben

    A two-day meeting in Laos regarding the construction of a 260-megawatt dam on the Lower Mekong River has left officials and the environmental communities deeply polarized. The Lao government remains determined to press ahead with the project, dismissing concerns over the dam’s impact on the Mekong Delta region.

    The planned Don Sahong hydropower dam, in southern Champassak province, is one of nine on the Mekong river's mainstream in Laos or near the Lao-Thai border.

    Laos is heavily dependent on income from some 10 hydropower plants, largely built since the 1990s on tributaries and rivers within Laos. They generate some 2,000 megawatts of power for domestic use and for export to Thailand.

    But two new massive dams have stoked controversy. One, the $3.8 billion Xayaburi dam in northern Laos, and the $600 million Don Sahong planned, for the Khone Falls in Chamapssak province, have drawn scrutiny from environmentalists who worry about their impact on migratory fish and water flow.

    Laos' vice minister of Energy and Mines, Viraphonh Virapong, said the government is committed to what he terms developing clean, renewable hydropower, despite criticisms.

    To evaluate the impact of the dams, the intergovernmental Mekong River Commission (MRC), last week oversaw consultations to evaluate the impact of the projects.

    Robert Mather, South East Asia head for the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), said there are serious questions about whether this evaluation process is worthwhile.

    "Three main issues - the timing of the process, the lack of clarity about really the limits of what the process is actually about and the lack of any real trans-boundary EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment) discussions around, then I really don't think you can expect the process to really yield anything meaningful," said Maher.

    The consultation process for the Don Sahong project will last only six months. The Laos government sees the meetings as a way to clarify problem areas in construction of the dams, but critics say the talks should raise issues leading to the project being halted. 

    Environmental groups, including the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and the U.S.-based International Rivers and Thailand's Towards Ecological Recovery and Regional Alliance (TERRA), say the Don Sahong will disrupt the movement of migratory fish and impact local communities.

    TERRA spokesperson Premrudee Daorung said consultations are failing to address these issues, especially because few communities dependent on the waters for their livelihoods are involved in the process.

    "What we keep requesting is that the MRC itself, with its agenda, it has to include the local people; you cannot keep going along with the project or the platform that only allows so-called dam builders to attend," said Daorung.

    Throughout the Greater Mekong Subregion up to 60 million people are dependent on fish and free flowing waters, as vital flood water runoff is needed to enrich soil for agriculture, especially rice.

    Downstream, Vietnam has raised alarms over the impact the Don Sahong project would have on the Mekong Delta, the country's “rice bowl” and home to 20 million people. Vietnam says the dam will result in increasing water salinity and soil erosion.

    An MRC spokesman told VOA national consultations are set to be held in Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia, before final decisions are made on the project.

    You May Like

    Syrian Torture Victim Recounts Horrors

    'You make them think you have surrendered' says Jalal Nofal, a doctor who was jailed and survived repeated interrogations in Syria

    Mandela’s Millions Paid to Heirs, But Who Gets His Country Home?

    Saga around $3 million estate of country's first democratic president is far from over as Winnie Mandela’s fight for home overshadows payouts

    Guess Which Beach is 'Best in the US'?

    Hawaii’s Hanauma Bay tops an annual "top 10" list compiled by a coastal scientist, also known as Doctor Beach

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora