Press Release: Prior Consultation for Pak Beng Dam Must be Extended

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Friday, June 16, 2017

 

On Monday 19 June, the Joint Committee of the Mekong River Commission (MRC) will meet for a special session to discuss the Prior Consultation process for the Pak Beng Dam, and the positions of MRC member countries as expressed in their formal reply forms. The meeting marks the end of the first 6 months of the Prior Consultation process for the Pak Beng project.

There are significant outstanding concerns regarding the quality of studies and information relied on during the Prior Consultation to assess and understand the project’s environmental and social impacts on the Mekong River. This includes the project’s transboundary impacts in Thailand and other neighboring countries, and its cumulative impacts with other existing and proposed hydropower projects in the Mekong basin. There are further concerns over the quality of national consultations conducted and public participation in the Prior Consultation process.

More time is needed, within the Prior Consultation, for further baseline studies to be conducted by the developer, and further information provided to member countries with which to meaningfully evaluate the expected impacts of the Pak Beng Dam. Under the 1995 Mekong Agreement and the Procedures for Notification, Prior Consultation and Agreement (PNPCA), it is within the purview of the Joint Committee to extend the time period for Prior Consultation. It is also the responsibility of the Joint Committee to respond to concerns that arise within the Prior Consultation process.

The MRC’s draft Technical Review of the Pak Beng Dam’s project documents, including the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and project documents found significant gaps in data provided on fisheries, hydrology and sediment, and concluded that the transboundary impacts of project had not been fully assessed. An independent expert review of the Pak Beng Dam EIA, commissioned by International Rivers, also concluded that the information provided by the developer was insufficient to evaluate the full extent of the impacts and consequently the viability of proposed impact mitigation measures. Analysis of the Transboundary and Cumulative Impact Assessment found an absence of meaningful public participation in preparation of the study and no consultation with communities who would be affected by the project.

At a national level, civil society and local communities have raised strong concerns regarding the limitations of consultation meetings held in Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam. These meetings have been characterized by a lack of representation, in particular from affected communities, as well as limitations in project information presented and the scope of discussion. The project developer did not attend consultation meetings at a national level and therefore were not able to respond to the questions of participants. In Thailand, concern over the transboundary impacts of the Pak Beng Dam, and the weakness of national level consultation and information sharing has prompted a lawsuit filed by Thai Mekong communities in Thailand’s Administrative Court against the Thai National Mekong Committee.

Communities in Thailand are extremely concerned about the transboundary impacts of the Pak Beng Dam. Given the location of the project close to the border to Thailand, there is an urgent need for adequate assessment of the dam’s transboundary impacts. Furthermore, decision-making must include participation of local communities whose livelihoods and food sources will be affected as a result of the Pak Beng Dam. This includes communities throughout the lower Mekong River Basin whose way of life depends on the Mekong River and is at risk due to dam construction.

The MRC Secretariat has framed the Prior Consultation as focused on steps to mitigate and minimize harm resulting from the Pak Beng Dam. However, without sufficient baseline data and adequate impact assessments, it is not possible to develop viable and context specific mitigation measures, especially in an ecosystem as complex as that of the Mekong River. With both the Xayaburi and Don Sahong Dams, construction commenced in the absence of necessary baseline studies. As the projects have advanced, very little information has been made publicly available about the progress of ongoing studies and impact monitoring.

The Pak Beng Dam must not follow the same path as the Xayaburi and Don Sahong Dams. Mekong governments must push for adequate project studies to be conducted before a decision is made to proceed with the dam and before project agreements are signed and construction begins.

The timeframe for the Prior Consultation process for the Pak Beng Dam must be extended to allow for updated studies to be evaluated by MRC member countries. This should include consideration of the final findings of the MRC Council Study, which will be completed in December 2017. There is an urgent need for shared, regional decision-making that is based on quality scientific studies and on a broader awareness and understanding of transboundary and cumulative impacts of dams on the Mekong River mainstream.


Media Contacts:

Teerapong Pomun, Director, Mekong Community Institute,
E: teary88@hotmail.com, T: +66 814477969
TEK Vannara, Executive Director, NGO Forum on Cambodia,
E: vannara@ngoforum.org.kh, T: 85523214429
Trinh Le Nguyen, Executive Director, People and Nature Reconciliation,
E: nguyen@nature.org.vn, T: 84435564001
Maureen Harris, Southeast Asia Program Director, International Rivers,
E: mharris@internationalrivers.or g, T: +66 618902602


Please read the Vietnamese version here

 

Thai Villagers File Lawsuit on Pak Beng Dam

On Thursday, June 8, 2017 the Thai Network of Eight Mekong Provinces filed a lawsuit against relevant Thai government agencies for their involvement in the Pak Beng Dam on the Mekong River, and the expected transboundary impacts on communities in Thailand.

The Pak Beng Dam is the third dam planned for construction on the lower Mekong River mainstream (following the Xayaburi and Don Sahong Dams). The dam will be located in Oudomxay Province, Northern Laos, blocking the river about 92 kilometers downstream from Thailand in Wiang Kaen District, Chiang Rai Province. China’s Datang Corporation is developing the 912 MW project. Approximately 90% of the electricity is planned for sale to the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT), for export to Thailand.

The Pak Beng Dam is currently undergoing Prior Consultation in accordance with the Procedures for Prior Notification, Prior Consultation and Agreement set out under the 1995 Mekong Agreement. The initial 6-month Prior Consultation period will conclude on June 19th. As part of the Prior Consultation process, the Mekong River Commission (MRC) conducted a Technical Review of the environmental and social impacts studies for the Pak Beng Dam. The review focused on a number of critical issues including, hydrology, sediment, fisheries, dam safety, navigation, and social and transboundary impacts. The MRC’s Technical Review team found significant shortcomings in the reports submitted to the MRC in November 2016. There was very limited information provided in particular regarding fish species that would be impacted by the dam. Data collection was extremely limited, fish sampling was carried out over a few days at six stations in 2011, in the dry and rainy season. Experts conclude that the proposed fish passage, designed to mitigate the impacts of the Pak Beng Dam on fish migration is unlikely to be effective. Furthermore, reviewers found that studies of the Pak Beng’s transboundary impacts were inadequate, especially in relation to the expected impacts in Thailand.

Thailand has held four meetings regarding the Pak Beng Dam, as part of the Prior Consultation process, and at each meeting Thai people expressed significant concerns about the transboundary impacts of the dam, both upstream and downstream. Given the inter-connected nature of the Mekong River, if the water level in the river rises by only 50cm-1m, there will be impacts. Villagers in Thailand are particularly worried about flooding, as a result of the dam’s reservoir. Information shared at the Pak Beng forums in Thailand was very limited, and so people have been left with many questions regarding the impacts of the project. Today when dams upstream in China release water during the dry season, it causes flooding downstream. If the Pak Beng Dam is built, villagers in Chiang Rai will be living in between two dams.

The lawsuit is the second case filed against Thai government agencies regarding cross-border impacts from projects outside of Thailand, and which deals with transboundary environmental and social impacts of hydropower projects on the Mekong River. The lawsuit calls for the Thai agencies named to protect the rights and freedoms of people living in Thailand.

Please read vietnamese version here.

Photo Credit: PanNature

Statement of the Save the Mekong Coalition for the 23rd MRC Council Meeting

On the occasion of the 23rd Meeting of the Mekong River Commission (MRC) Council, the Save the Mekong Coalition has issued a Statement to express our serious concern over the ongoing development of hydropower projects on the Mekong mainstream, despite unresolved issues over transboundary and cumulative impacts of projects already under construction and a breakdown in shared regional decision-making. We are further concerned about the status of the MRC Council Study, intended to inform decisions regarding development on the Mekong River, and request information on the status of the study, as well as of the review of the 1995 Mekong Agreement’s Procedures by the MRC’s Joint Platform.

The decision-making processes for the Xayaburi and Don Sahong dams, now under construction on the Mekong mainstream in Lao PDR, ignited significant controversy within the Mekong region and internationally. Requests for information and concerns over project impacts expressed during the Prior Consultation procedures were not formally addressed, including calls for extension of the consultation period, thorough baseline information, and studies of transboundary impacts. Both projects proceeded despite the absence of agreement or resolution of concerns within the MRC’s Joint Committee and Council.

 

The Mekong River is a vital shared resource for the region. There is an urgent need for change in the decision-making processes that are informing hydropower development in the Mekong Basin to ensure a sustainable future for the river and her people.

We call on the Mekong governments and the Mekong River Commission to:

  • Prioritize participation and consultation on the Council Study, expedite completion of the Council Study and disseminate ongoing results to the public, ensuring that these findings and those of the Mekong Delta Study inform further decision affecting the future of the river;
  • Prioritize organizational reform, including an assessment of the future of the MRC and the 1995 Agreement, with participation by the public and Mekong communities. The Mekong Agreement and procedures must be transparently reviewed and adapted in accordance with regional processes and developments in international law.
  • Halt further decision-making over Mekong mainstream dams, until such a time as decisions can be informed by and based upon meaningful consultation, particularly with local project-affected communities, and sound basin-wide studies which consider the transboundary and cumulative impacts of mainstream dams.

Vietnamese version of the Statement

Open Letter from Save the Mekong Coalition to the developers of the Don Sahong Dam

The Save the Mekong Coalition has issued an Open Letter to the developers of the Don Sahong Dam to express our serious and ongoing concerns over the development of the project.

For a project with a relatively low generating capacity, due to its location in an area critical to Mekong fish migration, the potential impacts of the Don Sahong Dam on regional fisheries are severe. The food security of thousands of people in the Mekong Basin is dependent on many of the migratory fish species which have traditionally passed through the Hou Sahong channel. Inadequate information has been made available to date regarding the scale and scope of the project’s impacts and the monitoring efforts that are informing the project’s ‘adaptive and flexible approach’ to impact mitigation.

Furthermore, we are concerned that the developer is considering not implementing all the mitigation measures outlined in the project’s 2013 Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).

Although the developers have stated that extensive fish monitoring will be undertaken, limited information has been made available regarding baseline data and the ongoing monitoring of fish species and their migration patterns. Recent studies on the company website do not include reports detailing monitoring data and analysis since project construction commenced in January.

People potentially affected by the project currently have little means to seek accountability. This includes transparency over the project’s impacts and guarantees that the full range of measures available will be implemented to mitigate adverse impacts on fish migration and the threats to local communities and regional food security.

We therefore call on the project developers to:

  • Confirm that all necessary measures, including screen and bypass systems to divert fish from entering the Hou Sahong channel and turbines, are being implemented to ensure mitigation of the project impacts is as effective as possible;
  • Release details of the fish screen and bypass system design and information as to how the measures will be developed to cater for fish species in the area;
  • Release the results of ongoing fisheries monitoring studies that show how fish migration behaviour is adapting to project construction;
  • Halt construction of the project until comprehensive information regarding the project’s environmental and social impacts and addressing the concerns raised by Mekong governments has been made publicly available.

The open letter in Vietnamese.


For more information please contact Maureen Harris at International Rivers: mharris@internationalrivers.org.

 

Open Letter from Save the Mekong Coalition to MRC Development Partners

In advance of the Mekong River Commission’s Informal Donor Meeting this week, the Save the Mekong Coalition writes the open letter to express serious and ongoing concern over the outstanding issues and questions surrounding hydropower dam construction on the mainstream of the Mekong River.

The Coalition calls on Mekong River Commission developments partners to:

  • Renew their calls to the MRC to effect the release of the current designs for the Xayaburi dam and clarification of the status of the Prior Consultation process for the Don Sahong Dam;
  • Require reform of the MRC’s procedures before any further project is commenced, including requirements for comprehensive assessments and release of information, meaningful public participation and the transparent resolution of disputes;
  • Reconsider their support to the MRC if it remains unable to fulfil the purpose of ensuring adherence to the spirit and principles of the 1995 Mekong Agreement.

The Open Letter: EnglishThai versions, and Vietnamese news on the letter (updated).

Leaders of 6 Mekong Countries Must Listen to the People!

Statement of the Thai People in Eight Mekong Provinces

Listen to Downstream Communities
Stop All Mekong Dams
Implement Transboundary Impacts Studies

Mekong River is the mother of lives and the giver of local economies in 8 provinces of Thailand, from the Golden Triangle in Chiang Saen, Chiang Rai Province to Chiang Khan, Loei Province and Khong Chiam, Ubonratchatani Province. But the construction of hydropower dams in Yunnan, China—since the first dam and now a total of 6 completed dams out of the 15 planned projects—Mekong River has lost its nature to cascade hydropower dams and navigation of large cargo ships for the past 20 years and counting.

Today, the leaders of all Mekong countries gather together in China for the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation meeting—an initiative led by China. We, The Network of Thai People in Eight Mekong Provinces who have been monitoring development projects in the Mekong River with Thai communities, call the Thai and the Mekong governments to:

  • Admit and immediately mitigate impacts caused by China’s totalitarian water management on the upper Mekong River/Lancang that have happened already for many years, especially transboundary impacts posed by hydropower projects and water release for Chinese large cargo ships navigation. These development projects fail to recognize local communities’ rights and unprecedented environmental impacts downstream.
  • Immediately find resolutions for existing transboundary impacts and mitigation measures for damages and losses caused by unseasonal abrupt water level fluctuations—including flooding due to dam discharge and dry water level and rapids blasting during the development of Mekong Navigation Project.
  • Stop and suspend all dam projects in the lower Mekong basin. These projects have ignored to respect participations of the Mekong people who dependent on the river to sustain their livelihoods and economies. Public participation must be implemented and enforced to prevent grave environmental and social impacts on downstream communities.
  • Create an accountable and participatory water management mechanism that foster inclusive public participation especially from riparian communities who are directly affected by the projects.

Mekong River is the Mother River of Southeast Asia. We have coexisted and relied on her since the ancestral time. We do not want anyone to take our Mother River away and use it simply for political interests.

The Network of Thai People in Eight Mekong Provinces
23 March 2016

More than 4,500 Mekong local people sign the statement on Mekong dams

Awaiting governments to confirm their attendance at the Mekong People’s Forum next week.

5 November 2015 – On 25 September 2015, local people’s networks in Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam released a joint statement entitled: “Mekong governments: Listen to the people! – Statement by local people on dams in the Mekong Region” (attached). The statement calls on the governments of the Mekong region to recognize the severe impacts of large-scale hydropower dams on the Mekong mainstream and tributaries within the Mekong basin and to listen to the concerns of local communities who would be affected by these projects.

Community lawsuit against Xayaburi Dam at Thailand's Administrative Court in June 2014. Photo by: Stop Xayaburi Dam
Community lawsuit against Xayaburi Dam at Thailand’s Administrative Court in June 2014. Photo by: Stop Xayaburi Dam.

“We request direct dialogue between the Mekong region’s governments and peoples’ representatives through public forums,” reads the statement. “We call on governments to come to a public forum which will be organized and attended by Mekong local peoples’ representatives; to listen and learn from us about the impacts of the dams.”

The original statement was signed by 15 local representatives from three countries plus 10 supporting organisations and one academic as an individual supporter. One month later, the statement has received recognition and support from more than 4,500 signatories. Among all those who signed, over 4,000 signatures and thumbprints come from the local people who live along the Mekong River and have directly experienced the changes in the Mekong River in recent years.

All the signatures, with the total to be counted early next week, will be presented to government ministers from all four lower Mekong countries; those who are directly responsible for decision-making over the future of the Mekong Basin. Invitations were sent, together with copies of the statement, to Ministers of Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam, to invite them to the Mekong People’s Public Forum, which will take place on 11 November at An Giang University, An Giang Province in the Mekong Delta in Vietnam.

The Regional Public Forum, “Local Mekong people’s voices: the message to Mekong governments on Mekong dams”(program attached), will be a gathering of nearly one hundred participants. Among them will be at least twenty representatives from local Mekong communities from Cambodia and Thailand. The majority of participants will be Vietnamese local communities, civil society groups and academic groups from Vietnam. This event is highly significant: it will be the first public forum of its kind, bringing together local people across the region to share their concerns over hydropower dams.

The Mekong local groups, however, until now are still waiting for the formal reply from the Mekong governments as to whether they are willing to join the historic Mekong People’s Forum.

“This forum belongs to us, the local Mekong people’s communities and citizens. I believe that the gathering will get bigger and bigger from now on. The problems from Mekong dams have been too severe for all of us, and without any real solution and understanding from Mekong governments, we the people will no longer able to protect our rivers from the aggressive encroachment of those dam builders. We will therefore continue to call until we have the government representatives really come, listen and admit their responsibility in protecting the Mekong basin, our livelihoods and the security of the region overall” states Mr. Channarong Wongla, from the local group Hug Chiang Khan in the Northeastern Mekong provinces in Thailand.

Panel Discussion for 2nd MRC Summit – Open to the public on 4 April

The Second MRC Summit will be organized on 5th April 2014 in Ho Chi Minh City, following the consensus made by heads of MRC member states in the first Summit in Hua Hin in 2010.  This quadrennial event demonstrates the highest level of political commitment to the implementation of the Mekong Agreement. The Second Summit will focus the discussions of MRC state leaders on progress of implementation of the Hua Hin Declaration, among other importants issues. There are also a number of other high-level events organized before the Summit, including an international conference, MRC Joint Committee meeting, and MRC Council meeting.

2ndMekongSummit

The panel discussion “The Journey from Hua Hin to Ho Chi Minh City and Future of the Mekong River” is open to the public, especially media, to join and share with speakers their views and comments.

For more information, please click here >>