News / Asia

Vietnamese Opposition Could Sway Lao Hydropower Plans

A Western construction worker surveys ongoing work to build a power plant for the Nam Theun 2 dam, south of Vientiane, Laos (file photo)
A Western construction worker surveys ongoing work to build a power plant for the Nam Theun 2 dam, south of Vientiane, Laos (file photo)

Multimedia

Audio

Vietnamese officials are criticizing the Lao government’s controversial plan to build a dam on the Mekong River. Analysts say opposition from Vietnam and other lower Mekong countries could force Laos to scale back its hydropower ambitions.

Vietnamese officials are publicly opposing a plan by neighboring Laos to build a hydropower dam on the Mekong River.

The $3.5 billion Xayaburi hydropower dam is the first of 12 dams planned for the lower Mekong. A Thai developer would build the dam, and Thailand would buy most of the 1,260 megawatts of electricity the dam would generate.

Lao officials say the proposed Mekong dams would cut poverty and bolster their land-locked country’s economy.

Criticism

But Vietnamese officials say the dam would jeopardize water supplies and threaten fishing on the river’s downstream reaches. Their recent comments echoed warnings by environmentalists that the Mekong dams would damage the environment and threaten the livelihoods of people who live near the river.

Analysts say political pressure from Vietnam and its lower Mekong neighbors – Thailand and Cambodia – could force Laos to delay or modify its plans to harness the Mekong’s flow.

Philip Hirsch, a professor of human ecology at the University of Sydney, told VOA that of the lower Mekong countries, Vietnam has so far been most publicly critical of Laos’ hydropower ambitions.

"The interesting question, which I think is very difficult for anyone to answer, is how these two countries, Vietnam and Laos – which are so close – are going to extricate themselves from what at the moment seem to be diametrically opposite positions on the Xayabouri dam," Hirsch said.

Vietnam and Laos are both one-party states and Hirsch says Vietnam typically influences Lao policy "behind closed doors." But Hirsch says recent criticism of the Xayabouri proposal by high-ranking Vietnamese officials has been "very public."

All four lower Mekong countries will be closely watching a recommendation on the dam expected this month from the Joint Committee of the Mekong River Commission, an advisory body formed in 1995 to promote sustainable development along the 4,900-kilometer Mekong system.

Influence

But Hirsch points out that the MRC has no power to force Laos to abandon its plans for the Xayabouri and other Mekong dams.

"The MRC is not a regulatory institution,” Hirsch added. “It’s not a strong agency in that way, it’s one which has always worked on the basis of trying to achieve consensus, and if we’re looking for regulation from the MRC, I think we’re looking in the wrong direction."

Hirsch says Thailand has vowed to stay neutral in MRC negotiations, which puts the onus on Vietnamese and Cambodian officials to address the Xayabouri dam proposal in discussions with their Lao counterparts.

Trinh Le Nguyen is executive director of the Vietnamese NGO PanNature. He tells VOA that although Laos has final say over the Xayabouri and other Mekong dams, Vietnam may pressure Laos by threatening to not invest in future Mekong hydropower projects.

"Vietnam can decide not to invest or buy anything from [Laos],” Trinh Le Nguyen said. “It’s one of the ways they can have some power."

In October, an independent study commissioned by the MRC recommended that lower Mekong countries delay decisions on hydropower projects for 10 years, warning that Mekong hydropower dams would exacerbate food insecurity and cause "serious and irreversible" environmental effects.

China, which borders northern Laos, already operates four dams on the upper reaches of the Mekong River.

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

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.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs