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NGO coalition opposes new Laos dam

Sen David / Khmer Times Share:
Forum chief Tek Vanara is to collect the concerns of interested parties. KT/Mai Vireak

The River Coalition of Cambodia appealed to the government of Cambodia yesterday to intervene in plans by Laos to construct a third controversial dam along the Mekong.
At a press conference in Phnom Penh, the national network of environmental NGOs urged the government to raise their concerns of ill affects to communities living downstream from the proposed Pak Beng dam, in Oudomxay province, northern Laos.
The proposed Pak Beng Hydropower Dam would be the third dam constructed on the Mekong river in Laos, following the controversial Xayaburi and Don Sahong dams, to which the coalition is also opposed.
“We did a lot activity against building the Xayaburi and Don Sahong dams,” said Tek Vanara, executive director of the NGO Forum on Cambodia.
“Now Laos have announced they’re building a third project. We stand against this project because it will impact the Mekong river in Cambodia.”
Mr Vanara said the dam would seriously affect fishing communities who live downstream in Stung Treng province by threatening biodiversity and fisheries in the lower Mekong, the source of food security for millions of Cambodians.
He added that he would be collecting the concerns of all interested parties to present them to the Mekong River Commission (MRC), an inter-governmental organisation.
“We will collect the communities’ concerns to suggest to the Mekong River Commission to ask Laos to stop their new project,” he said.
The dam will have the capacity to generate 912 MW of electricity. 
According to reports, the company responsible for building the Pak Beng dam, Vientiane-based Datang (Laos) Pak Beng Hydropower, is committed to responding to comments by member countries of the MRC.
Mr Vanara added that if the coalition’s concerns are not addressed with acceptable results, it would continue its campaign and seek international support.
Kong Chanty, a representative of a fishing community in Stung Treng province, said he is worried the dam will affect villagers’ livelihoods.
“If they build the dam successfully, it will impact the migration of fish,” he said.
“And the countries along the Mekong river will not have much fish. Our income will go down. Dams never benefit fishing communities.”
Kaing Khim, a representative of the MRC for Cambodia, said that the new Pak Beng Dam is 1,540km from the Laos, Cambodia border, adding the commission will look into the coalition’s concerns.
“Laos informed the MRC at the end of 2016 that it has plans to build the Pak Beng dam,” she said. 
“The countries along the Mekong have created a technical group to study the impact and we will send those concerns and our study over the impact to the Lao government.” 

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