In a major victory for legal protection in the Mekong region, the governments of Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam decided at today's meeting of the Mekong River Commission (MRC) that further study of dam impacts and sustainability was necessary before moving forward with dams on the lower Mekong river. The MRC is asking Japan and other MRC development partners to assist with the study.
Cambodia's representative to the MRC was clear as to the significance of this decision for the proposed Xayaburi dam in Laos: "When the four member countries agreed to conduct a further study, this meant the construction would not start until we have a clear result."
For months, ERI and the Mekong Legal Network have been arguing that the process of moving forward with the Xayaburi project has not met international standards or the regional standards created under the 1995 Mekong Agreement on the Cooperation for the Sustainable Development of the Mekong River Basin. This decision demonstrates a commitment to the spirit of the 1995 Mekong Agreement, and we continue to urge the Mekong countries not to proceed with any project that does not fully comply with that agreement and with the requirements of international law - including full consultation with all affected groups and a rigorous evaluation of cross-border environmental impacts.
The Xayaburi hydropower project, whose electricity would be exported from Laos to Thailand, would be the first dam on the mainstream of the Mekong river below China. If constructed, it would likely lead to a cascade of eleven dams along the lower Mekong, which would jeopardize the livelihoods and food security of millions of people who depend on the world's most productive freshwater fishery. Last year, the Strategic Environmental Assessment commissioned by the MRC recommended a 10-year moratorium on any dam construction due to the need for further study of severe social and environmental impacts likely to result from mainstream dams.
- Press release from the MRC:
- Press release from International Rivers: News articles on the MRC decision:
- Bangkok Post coverage
- Reuters coverage
- Background: Save the Mekong Coalition