Thursday, November 15, 2007

World must held protect vital Mekong River from hydroelectric development - Lack of transparent environmental impact statements cited.

BANGKOK (AFP) — International donors must use their influence and push Southeast Asia's Mekong River Commission to speak out against six potentially devastating dams on the vital waterway, environmental groups said Tuesday.

The planned hydropower dams on the Mekong in Laos, Thailand and Cambodia could displace tens of thousands of people and endanger up to 1,300 aquatic species including the rare Mekong giant catfish and the Irrawaddy dolphin, activists said.

"We urge all the donors of the Mekong River Commission to review immediately their support to the MRC," Premrudee Daoroung, co-director of Thailand-based ecological group TERRA, told reporters in Bangkok.

"The existence of the MRC now, if they are not doing their job, they are blocking the way of other more transparent mechanisms" to do the job.

She said the MRC -- which comprises Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos -- had failed since its creation in 1995 to carry out adequate environmental impact assessments or consult people affected by the dams.

The group's donors, which include the World Bank, the United States, Japan, Australia and many European governments, are due to meet in the Cambodian town of Siem Reap on Thursday.

Activists urged the donors to pressure the MRC to carry out an investigation into the region-wide social and ecological impact of each dam, and to make sure people were compensated for any loss of livelihood.

Laos, which has ambitions to become the region's key electricity supplier, has four Mekong dams under consideration, while Thailand and Cambodia each have one.

"The lower Mekong is the largest production fishery area, any change on the eco-system would create a vital impact," said Pianporn Deetes, a coordinator with Southeast Asia Rivers Network (SEARIN).

Activists said that because of the lack of transparent impact assessments for the dams, it was hard to say how many people would be forced from their homes, but estimates ranged between 17,300 and 75,000.

Here is the full article.