We urge the governments of Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam to maintain their firm positions opposing the Don Sahong project. We urge them to demand an agreement between all four countries to protect the Mekong River and the lives, livelihoods and rights of its communities.

The Mekong River Commission’s Procedures for Notification, Prior Consultation and Agreement (PNPCA), seems to have once again proven to be no more than a means for Laos to legitimize their reckless actions. Mekong River countries are supposed to, according to the 1995 Mekong Agreement, reach an agreement on development projects impacting their shared river in a “mutually beneficial manner.”

Millions of people in the Mekong River region are at risk of losing their livelihoods, as more and more hydroelectric dams are being built. The Don Sahong dam, a project being built by the Malaysian Corporation Mega First in Laos (two kilometers from the Cambodian border), is one of these projects endangering local communities.

The dam will impact the migration of fish that are now abundant, the flow of sediment that currently fertilizes crops, and the habitat of the critically endangered Irrawaddy dolphins that support the local tourist economy, therefore threatening the life and livelihoods of Mekong River communities.

The Mekong River Commission (MRC) Joint Committee will convene for a special meeting to discuss issues surrounding the Don Sahong project. This meeting is part of a joint decision-making process to promote shared use and management of the river. At that time, MRC member states will submit final positions on the project. We urge them to maintain their firm positions opposing the Don Sahong.

Fisheries are at the center of life for many Thai and Cambodian communities.  Fish are the essential source of protein for most Mekong communities – communities that already live precariously.  For example, in Stung Treng province, 45% of children have been found to be underweight.  Yet, Mega First has done almost no investigation of how the disruption of fish will harm the people in the region and has not conducted any meaningful consultation with affected communities.

The project threatens the lives and livelihoods of millions of people. Despite this, the project has proceeded without adequate studies, including of the transboundary impacts.  Throughout Laos’ half-hearted attempt at ‘Prior Consultation’, affected communities as well as civil society organizations in Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam have voiced concerns that the procedure has been flawed from the beginning. They have also voiced a strong opposition to the Don Sahong project itself. Their concerns have been echoed by governments, calling for the extension of the Prior Consultation process and the suspension of the project until further studies and consultations are conducted. Vietnam’s National Mekong Committee denounced the project, arguing that it will block migratory pathways used by numerous fish species and endanger the livelihoods of communities in the region.

As the meeting of the MRC Joint Committee approaches, it is becoming increasingly important that the National Mekong Committees take a strong stand against the project and demand that a mutual agreement be reached.