26 Jun 2014 | Apinya Wipatayotin | Bangkok Post
Thailand will reaffirm at the Mekong River Commission (MRC) meeting today that Laos' Don Sahong hydro-power dam project must undergo a consultation process of member states before Vientiane can move ahead with its construction.
Chote Trachoo, permanent secretary of the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, who heads the Thai team at the meeting, said Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia are concerned the dam could have an adverse ecological impact on the Mekong River.
A transboundary impact assessment of the river and its surrounding environment will be needed before Laos can start the project, he said.
Don Sahong dam is Laos' second planned hydro-power dam project after the controversial Xayaburi dam on the Mekong River which borders the four countries.
Laos last year signalled its intention to develop the Don Sahong hydro-power dam project in the Siphandone area in the southern part of the country through the MRC's ordinary notification process, arguing the project will be built on one of the river tributaries and not on the main river itself.
However, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand disagreed with it, saying the project should undergo a more extensive "prior consultation process" by member states of the MRC, as the potential for impacts was significant.
An agreement could not be reached by the four countries and the issue has been left for the MRC council to decide.
Speculation is rife that a decision might be made at the MRC ministerial meeting in Bangkok today.
The 260 mega-watt Don Sahong dam project is about two times the size of Pak Moon dam in Thailand.
Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam are concerned the dam will block fish migration in the Mekong River, which is an important natural habitat for a large number of fish.
Some environmentalists said that the dam, if built, will destroy the ecological system of the Mekong River.
Pianporn Deetes, of the International Rivers group, said the MRC must protect the Mekong River's conservation by considering the impacts which the dam will have on the river.
Any decision must be made based on a clear study on transboundary impacts and the people's participation.
Meanwhile, Save the Mekong Coalition yesterday said immediate action should be taken to cancel construction of Xayaburi and Don Sahong dams.
Construction of Xayaburi dam is already underway.