Laos halts construction project of controversial Don Sahong hydropower dam: envoy

19 August | Xinhua

Source: http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/xinhua-news-agency/140819/laos-h...

Laos has suspended the construction project of controversial 260-megawatt Don Sahong hydropower dam on the lower Mekong River following requests from other countries, newly-designated Laos ambassador to Cambodia Prasith Sayasith said Tuesday.

Speaking during a meeting with Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Hor Namhong, Sayasith said Laos is doing all its best to avoid any adverse impact on environment along the Mekong River, Koy Kuong, spokesman for the Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told reporters after the meeting. "Following past meetings in Thailand, Laos has decided to suspend the construction of Don Sahong hydropower dam," Koy Kuong quoted the ambassador as saying to Hor Namhong.

Hor Namhong welcomed the news and said under the Mekong Agreement 1995, any proposed mainstream hydropower dams in the lower Mekong Basin must be discussed extensively among all four lower Mekong countries--Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam-- prior to any decision being taken.

Conservationists said the proposed dam posed a serious threat to the existence of biodiversity on the Mekong River such as rarely dolphin species and fishery resources vital to millions of people in Cambodia and Vietnam.

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) said in April that the dam, located just one kilometer upstream of the core habitat for about 85 Mekong dolphins, could threaten the existence of critically endangered Irrawaddy dolphins in downstream Cambodia.

It added that an estimated 75 percent of the residents along the Mekong River in Cambodia depends their livelihoods on fishing and agricultural crops.

The halt to the dam project came after official requests from Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand.