|Preserve the Integrity of the Mekong Waters, Cancel the Xayaburi Dam Project!|
|Written by Administrator|
The Mekong River provides the people of the region with an abundance of natural resources, making it central to the livelihoods of millions of people and the lifeline of Southeast Asia. The Mekong River’s central role in the lives, ecology and cultures of the region should place the river’s protection as a top priority for decision-makers to ensure sustainable economic growth, protect food security and promote regional peace and prosperity.
However, a series of dams proposed along the Mekong River threaten 41 fish species with extinction and puts the livelihoods of nearly half a million people at risk. One of the major dams is the Xayaburi Dam, which if built, will affect the livelihoods and food security of millions of people in the region through changes to the river’s ecosystem, sediment flows and fisheries. The dam will threaten 23 to 100 migratory fish species by blocking these fishes’ migration route. The dam also threatens the extinction of approximately 41 fish species, including the critically endangered Mekong Giant Catfish. Furthermore, the dam will forcibly resettle over 2,100 people and directly affect over 202,000 people. These impacts in turn will affect the livelihoods and food security of millions of people in the region. Numerous world-renowned experts have criticized the project and its Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). Fisheries scientists, for example, unanimously agree that the dam's impacts on fisheries cannot be mitigated.
What is worse is that there is no evidence that the electricity from Xayaburi Dam is really needed. The project is supposed to supply electricity to Thailand, yet Thailand's electricity utility EGAT consistently overestimates future demand, and in 2010 the utility had a whopping 30% reserve margin. The Strategic Environmental Assessment found that all 11 mainstream dams would generate the equivalent of one year's increase in electricity demand for the lower Mekong Basin. Viewed in this light, the case for damming the Mekong mainstream is incredibly short-sighted.
Widespread public opposition to the dam has been expressed both regionally and internationally overthe past two years through various petitions and letters submitted to the regional governments and Mekong River Commission (MRC). On 18th April, a letter from nearly 10,000 Thai villagers from eight provinces was submitted to the Lao Embassy in Bangkok and the Thai Prime Minister raising concerns about the project’s transboundary impacts and calling on the Lao and Thai governments to cancel the Xayaburi Dam. At the same time, a petition signed by more than 15,000 people from around the world was presented to the Embassies of Lao PDR and Thailand in Berlin and Paris calling for the cancellation of the Xayaburi Dam, while a second petition signed by more than 2,300 people globally was also presented to members of the MRC’s Council. An earlier Save the Mekong petition of 23,110 signatures was submitted to the region’s Prime Ministers in October 2009, and in March 2011 a letter from 263 non- governmental organizations to the Prime Ministers of Lao PDR and Thailand also called for the cancellation of the Xayaburi Dam.
However, amidst the loud protests, an investigative report published on 17th April in the Bangkok Post revealed that preliminary construction work has already started at the Xayaburi Dam site. Furthermore, following the MRC meeting, the Lao PDR government publicly indicated its plans to approve the Xayaburi Dam’s construction, and the lead project developer, Thailand’s Ch Karnchang, has stated that it expects to receive this approval within 30 days. Ch. Karnchang’s insistence to proceed immediately with the project contradicts the Thai government’s position at the MRC Special Joint Committee meeting.
Clearly, building the dam is contrary to the regional commitment by the governments to cooperate in sharing the Mekong River. More so, it ignores extensive scientific evidence about the project’s severe social and environmental impacts, and it is clearly against the clear demands of civil society and the public that the project be cancelled. Thus, alongside other CSOs, we are urging the governments of Thailand and Lao PDR to preserve the integrity of the Mekong River and cancel the Xayaburi Dam project which poses a serious threat to hundreds of thousands of people, the environment, and security region-wide
Civil Society Calls on ASEAN: Cancel Xayaburi Dam, 7 May 2011, http://www.prachatai3.info/english/node/2491