Public Statement of the Network of Thai People in Eight Mekong Provinces

Public Statement of the Network of Thai People in Eight Mekong Provinces
Demand for transboundary impact assessment of Don Sahong Dam
Serious effort must be made to consult with people living by the Mekong

23 October 2014

The government of Lao PDR has announced that it will unilaterally proceed with the construction of the Don Sahong Dam Project in Champasak Province, Southern Laos. The Don Sahong Dam will be the second dam on the Lower Mekong mainstream. Recently, the Joint-Committee of the Mekong River Commission (MRC) agreed to retroactively set the start date for the Prior Consultation process - as required by the 1995 Mekong Agreement – as July 25, 2014. The process is supposed to be completed in six months (in January 2015), and can be extended if necessary.

Based on the six-month timeframe, it is now already three months into the process, but the Department of Water Resources, as Thailand’s Secretariat for the Thai National Mekong Committee has failed to set out plans as to how the consultation process will be conducted.

According to the 1995 Mekong Agreement signed by the four member countries, Prior Consultation is a key procedure to disclose information regarding any dam project, which will be built, across the Mekong River, which is the bloodline of the region. It is therefore necessary that an effort be made to listen directly to affected people in the Mekong River Basin.

Until now, we have been concerned that the Don Sahong Dam will bring about severe social and environmental damage as the Mekong River that flows through eight Thai provinces, will be blocked at its headwater by the Xayaburi Dam and at its end by the Don Sahong Dam. It will mean catastrophe to the overall ecological system of the river and will cause a lot of suffering. Yet, there are no agencies making an attempt to conduct transboundary impact studies to give a clear explanation to the people of the Mekong River. It is therefore of the utmost importance that the transboundary impact study be conducted prior to any decision being made to dam the river.

As for Thailand, the Network of Thai People in Eight Mekong Provinces would like to urge the Permanent Secretary of the Minister of Natural Resources and Environment who is in charge of the Department of Water Resources and is Chairperson of Thai National Mekong Committee, as follows;

1.       Another six-month extension to the Prior Consultation process must be made to ensure adequate time to acquire well-rounded information prior to any decision-making.

2.       A series of consultation meetings must be conducted comprehensively in eight provinces by the Mekong River, with at least one meeting in each district of the provinces. Announcements of the events must be made well in advance to ensure widespread and active participation of local people.

3.       All documents pertaining to the Don Sahong Dam and other relevant information must be made available in Thai language and they must be disseminated at least 30 days in advance to ensure that the public get to read and come to terms with information and be able to participate effectively to express their opinions.

4.       The private operators of the project and agencies in charge must send their representatives to each of the meetings in order to respond to any queries by the participating people.

5.       The process must be implemented based on community rights, people’s participation and impact prevention and mitigation to ensure that the local community will not have to bear the impact of the project in the long run.

6.       All Thai and regional laws and regulations regarding the environment and human rights must be strictly observed.

It is hoped that any decision made regarding the Mekong shall rest on proven knowledge and information for the sake of public interest and the value of the ecology and shared resources. The decisions shall not be made solely in favor of private interest. It is also hoped that people will have space to actively share their opinions and concerns about any possible impacts from the damming of the Mekong and will be able to participate to ensure sustainable natural resource management of the Mekong River.

The Network of Thai People in Eight Mekong Provinces
Office of the Mekong-Lanna River Basin Network for the Preservation of Natural Resources and Culture
62 Moo 8 Ban Wiang Kaew, Chiang Khong District, Chiang Rai
Email: thaimekongpeople@gmail.com