The Mekong Part III: Scaling Back Lao Dams

Farmers and fishermen in downstream countries are complaining about the impact of Mekong River dams located upstream in both China and Laos.

But a think tank now has a plan to reduce the damage done to crops and fish stocks by hydroelectric dams. Its focus is on Laos, Southeast Asia’s poorest country, which it says could benefit from scaling back on some of its planned dams.

Dam’s impacts being felt

Residents of Stung Treng province’s Preah Romkil commune are reluctant to express their concerns over Laos’s Don Sahong hydropower dam since it was endorsed last month by Prime Minister Hun Sen, despite the impacts of the dam already being keenly felt, activists and researchers said yesterday.

Hun Sen last month announced his support of the controversial project, expressing hope that Lao would sell electricity to Cambodia at a low price, but activist Chum Hout said yesterday that since the endorsement, community members are fearful of lodging complaints. “We appeal to Samdech [Hun Sen] to stop supporting this project . . . Fishing has seriously fallen,” Hout said.

Endangered dolphins at risk as controversial Don Sahong dam takes shape

“When I was born, my grandparents told me, ‘The dolphins are special. If you see them, you will get good luck. If you capsize your boat, the dolphins will save you. You can trust them.’”

The young man in his 20s is standing on the bank of the Mekong River in a section that a small pod of the critically-endangered Irrawaddy dolphin calls home – a home which is about to sit next to perhaps the most divisive hydropower dam project in the region.

Open Letter to the Developers of the Don Sahong Dam

The Save the Mekong coalition has expressed concerns over the development of the Don Sahong Dam in Champassak Province, Lao P.D.R. The network, consisted of communities, local and international environmental groups, reiterates their concern over the construction of the Don Sahong Dam due to its location in an area critical to Mekong fish migration, the potential impacts of the project on regional fisheries are severe. They stress that 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. The also claim inadequate information has been made available to date regarding the scale and scope of the project’s impacts, the ongoing studies and monitoring efforts that are informing the project’s ‘adaptive and flexible approach’ to mitigation, and confirmation of the implementation and efficacy of the project’s mitigation measures.

Kratie’s Tourist Boat Operators Worry Over Don Sahong Dam Impacts in Laos

Two commune chiefs and tourist boat operators in Kratie province have expressed their dissatisfaction over the construction of Don Sahong Dam, saying people’s living conditions will be getting worse while biodiversity – including rare fish species and dolphins in the lower Mekong River – are facing a threat of becoming extinct in the future if the Lao dam proceeds with its construction.