The NGO Forum on Cambodia

ASEAN: Cancel the Xayaburi Dam, Save the Mekong, the Statement on 14 November, 2012

On the occasion of the 21 st ASEAN Summit and 7th East Asia Summit from 18-20 November 2012 in​Phnom Penh, Cambodia, we respectfully call on the ASEAN, and international community, to uphold​commitments to protect the Mekong River by immediately calling for a cancellation to the plans to build the Xayaburi Dam on the Mekong River mainstream in northern Laos. As participants of the 2nd ACSC/ASEAN People Forum, held in Phnom Penh from 14-16 November 2012, we acknowledge that the Mekong River Basin is the lifeblood to more than 60 million people in the region.

As the world’s greatest inland fisheries and second-most biodiverse river, the Mekong River supports our region’s fishery and agricultural economies, while also serving as an important source of our cultural and  historical heritage. If built, the cascade of eleven Mekong mainstream dams, including the Xayaburi Dam, will block vital fish migrations and sediment flows, causing severe damage to the river’s ecosystem and biodiversity, while threatening the food security and livelihoods of millions of people.

Just over two years ago, the Xayaburi Dam’s prior consultation process, as required under the 1995 Mekong Agreement, was initiated by the Government of Lao PDR. Last week, the Lao government held a “groundbreaking” ceremony for the Xayaburi Dam. This push to move forward with the Xayaburi Dam violated the Lao and Thai governments’ obligations under the Agreement to sustainably manage the river and to negotiate in good faith with other member countries regarding changes to the river. As the Mekong River Commission’s member countries have not formally agreed to build this project, all construction on the dam should immediately cease.

The claims made by the Government of Laos, and its clients the Finnish company Pöyry and the French company Compagnie Nationale du Rhône (CNR), that the Xayaburi Dam will be sustainable and will not impact downstream countries are both false and baseless. Despite repeated calls to the Government of Laosfor additional study and further consultation by the governments of Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam, no transboundary environmental impact assessment has ever been carried out for the project thereby making it impossible to make such claims. Furthermore, the proposed mitigation measures for the Xayaburi Dam’s impacts on fisheries and sedimentation remain unproven. The Mekong River is therefore soon to become the testing grounds for new technologies, despite the claims by many scientists that many of these impacts can’t be effectively mitigated.

Over the past few years, civil society in the region and around the world have called on the Mekong countries to cancel plans to build the Xayaburi Dam and other Mekong mainstream dams. Numerous thumbprint petitions, statements, reports, public forums and letters have been conducted expressing the need to cancel the Xayaburi Dam, in order to allow for further study to fill the scientific gaps of uncertainty and avoid doing regrettable harm to the Mekong River. Both science and public opinion agree on this issue.

We therefore urge ASEAN and the international community, including the donors of the Mekong River Commission, to take swift action to protect the Mekong River by calling for the cancellation of the Xayaburi Dam. We also urge the Lao government to cancel this project and for the Thai government to immediately cancel its plans to purchase electricity from the project. Rather, the Mekong countries should seek to develop through sustainable alternative practices, while committing to protect the Mekong River. As a shared river, the health of the Mekong River and its people depends upon it.

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