News / Asia

Wildlife Group Rebuts Environmental Assessment for Mekong Dam Project

FILE - Fishing in the Mekong River below Khone Falls close to the Laos-Cambodian border. (Fletcher&Baylis/WWF- Greater Mekong)
FILE - Fishing in the Mekong River below Khone Falls close to the Laos-Cambodian border. (Fletcher&Baylis/WWF- Greater Mekong)
Plans to build a hydroelectric dam on the Mekong River, just inside Laos and upstream from Cambodia, are raising questions about its impact on the environment.  
The World Wide Fund for Nature's report is calling the environmental impact assessment for the proposed Don Sahong dam a “recipe for disaster.”

The international non-governmental organization is refuting the developer’s assertion that the project will have no significant environmental impact.

The dam, which would provide most of its 260 megawatts of generated electricity to Thailand and Cambodia, is to be built on the Mekong River in Laos by a Malaysian company.

WWF contends that the developer’s assessments of the project’s impact are not supported by scientific evidence and lack research on how societies and economies across borders would be affected.

The blueprint for the project includes a passage system through the dam for the lower Mekong’s migratory fish species, which are a significant and affordable source of protein for communities along the river.  

The WWF’s Marc Goichot, a specialist on the project, says in a VOA interview that the proposed passage system is unproven and risky.

“If you block this process then the species will disappear. And the place where the project is planned is a very specific channel in this multi-channel section of the river that is the only one that is easy to pass for fish," said Goichot.

Goichot says WWF is not looking to prevent the dam from being built. Rather, it is concerned about the particular location chosen.

“We believe there are many places that are far less risky. So if you would develop those hydropower projects at the right sites then it would be much easier to mitigate the impact. And for the same hydropower production you would have far less risk on your natural resources and among your environment," he said.

In January, Mekong region countries called for ministerial-level discussions on the fate of the dam, which is one of eleven planned for the lower part of the 4300- kilometer-long river.

Steve Herman

A veteran journalist, Steve Herman is VOA's Southeast Asia Bureau Chief and Correspondent, based in Bangkok.

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