Xayaburi Dam Groundbreaking Ceremony scheduled to take place this week (November 7th, 2012) is breaking Mekong Cooperation Spirit.
Posted Date: Friday, November 9, 2012 | Source: www.warecod.org.vn

Xayaburi Dam Groundbreaking November 7th, 2012 is breaking the Mekong Cooperation Spirit

Vietnam River Network -VRN
For Immediate Press Release

The Government of Lao PDR has announced that it is going to hold a groundbreaking ceremony to begin the construction of the hydropower dam at the Xayaburi Dam site on the mainstream of the Mekong River on Wednesday, November 7th, 2012.
We, the Vietnam Rivers Network (VRN) and its affiliates, hereby, call on Government of Lao PDR (GoL) to immediately halt the groundbreaking ceremony and to withdraw the unilateral decision to go ahead with the construction of the Xayaburi Dam which is made without the consensus of the member countries of the Mekong River Commission (MRC).
GoL’s Deputy Minister of Energy and Mining told a group of journalists on November 5th, 2012: “It has been assessed; it has been discussed for the last two years.  We have addressed most of the concerns”.
The Vietnam Rivers Network (VRN) and its affiliates, hereby, express strong disagreement with the statement. Our understanding is that the primary concerns of the MRC member countries have never been addressed and so far no trans-boundary impact assessments have been undertaken.
At the April 2011 MRC Special Joint Committee meeting, the Governments of Cambodia, Thailand, and Vietnam raised a number of concerns regarding the Xayaburi Dam, including:
·         Trans-boundary impacts on Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam;
·         Impacts on fisheries in Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam;
·         Impacts on agriculture in Cambodia and Vietnam;
·         Impacts on biodiversity in Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam;
·         Impacts on local livelihoods in Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam;
·         Impacts on sediment flows and erosion affecting Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam;
·         Measures for benefit sharing with affected countries of Cambodia and Thailand;
·         Cumulative impacts of the proposed Mekong mainstream dams on Cambodia and Vietnam.
The unilateral move by the GoL on the decision over the Xayaburi Dam relies mainly on reports prepared by two consultancy firms hired by GoL: Pöyry Group and Compagnie Nationale du Rhône (CNR). 
Meanwhile, the Government of Finland has announced plans to investigate the role of the Pöyry Group in the Xayaburi Dam. Since 2011, the Pöyry Group has played an active role in the high-profile, water conflict that has emerged between the four Lower Mekong governments over whether or not to build the dam.
Distancing itself from the controversy, CNR, in its August 2012 Press Release, has already clarified that:  “CNR mission has neither encompassed the evaluation of fish migration nor other environmental issues”; “The MRC (Mekong River Commission), inter-government organization for the sustainable development of the Mekong River Basin, has also issued guidelines to the dam projects in the Mekong Basin, which should be respected”; and “Knowing that almost half of the sediment supply of the Mekong Delta is coming from upstream of the Project, sediment transportation issue is one of the most important issues for Xayaburi dam, thus solution has been proposed at the conceptual level by CNR, based on its experience of operator of run of river dams.  The solutions need to be developed and their costs be evaluated”.
We, the VRN, and its affiliates, strongly state that:

  1. Both CNR and Pöyry’s reports were commissioned outside the Mekong River Commission’s diplomatic process and was done without consulting neighboring governments;
  2. The CNR and Pöyry reports are not an adequate basis for drawing conclusions on the impacts of the Xayaburi Dam on the Mekong Delta.  They do not contribute to understanding those impacts nor do they provide convincing advice on how to avoid or reduce them.
  3. The Mekong River should not be used as a “test site” for unproven and unverified designs in a data poor environment, as was stated in the Strategic Environment Assessment (SEA) report commissioned by MRC.
  4. A decision to proceed with one mainstream dam project in an unproven and data poor environment will increase the likelihood of advancement of the other 11 planned projects compounding the magnitude and accelerating the timing of risk to downstream riparian communities – in particular on the Mekong Delta.  The cumulative impacts of all 12 projects must be considered beforehand.
We remind the GoL of the commitment it made in the Hua Hin Declaration on May 5th, 2010:
“We, the Heads of Government, pronounce that building on the achievements of fifteen years of implementation of the Mekong Agreement, further cooperation over the coming years between the governments of Member Countries will be required to optimise multiple‐use of water resources and mutual benefits for all riparians, to avoid any harmful effect that might result from natural occurrences and man‐made activities and to protect the immense value of natural ecosystems and ecological balance.”
We call on the GoL to respect the spirit of cooperation between the Lower Mekong countries that it committed to in the 1995 Mekong Agreement, and more recently in the Hua Hin Declaration. We call on the Governments of Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand, MRC’s development partners’, and the international community to request the GoL to immediately halt the Groundbreaking Ceremony for the Xayaburi Dam and the unilateral decision to move ahead with its construction.
Media contacts:
Lam Thi Thu Suu: Coordinator of Vietnam Rivers Network
csrd@vnn.vn; Tel/Fax: 054 3837714

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