PHNOM PENH (Khmer Times) – Prime Minister Hun Sen has dismissed reports that Lao PDR has commenced construction of the giant 360MW Don Sahong Hydro Dam project.
“I have heard that Laos has commenced construction of this dam with laborers hired from China and Vietnam. There is no evidence to support this,” the prime minister was quoted as saying at Friday’s cabinet meeting.
He continued, “I have met with Laotian leaders in the recent past and they had assured me that Laos will not build the dam if an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report showed that the construction of this mammoth dam will hurt others on the Mekong.”
Malaysia’s Mega First Corp. Bhd signed an agreement with Laotian utility Electricite du Laos to regulate its participation in developing the 256MW Don Sahong hydropower project four months ago.
Per the agreement, Ground Roses Ltd., Silver Acreage Ltd. and Electricite du Laos (EDL) would hold 79%, 1% and 20% shares in Don Sahong Power Company Ltd.
The Don Sahong hydro plant is projected to be developed under a 30-year concession from the Laotian Government.
Power generated by the plant is to be primarily sold to Laos and possibly Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia, with rights transferred to the Laotian government upon its termination.
Mr. Hun Sen also quipped that Dr. Sok Touch, from Cambodia’s Royal Academy of International Relations could lead a team to to the proposed site and verify the reports.
“Dr. Touch had in the past voiced his concerns to the Laotians and Cambodian authorities that the construction of the dam could hurt other riparian countries which share the flow of the Mekong,” Mr. Hun Sen said.
“In addition, Vietnam, who is also a Mekong riparian country is also fearful of this proposed dam as she sits on the lower southern end of the Mekong and is equally dependent on the sustained flow and depth of the Mekong river for sustenance,” he added.
The Rivers Coalition Cambodia, an Environment based NGO had said in its report that the proposed Don Sahong hydropower project “threatens the rich local subsistence and commercial fisheries in Laos and could also impact fisheries in Cambodia, Thailand, and Vietnam with serious repercussions for food security and the region’s economy.”
“Furthermore, by jeopardizing the last remaining population of Irrawaddy dolphins in Laos, as well as diverting water from the spectacular Khone Phapheng waterfall, the Don Sahong Dam could undermine the area’s increasing popularity as a tourist destination,” the report continues.
Mega First Corp. has pushed forward on implementation of the Don Sahong Dam – the second Mekong mainstream dam – despite opposition from the Cambodian, Thai and Vietnamese governments, and calls for further study of the project’s impacts.
The company’s alleged disregard for the concerns of neighboring governments will impact the rights of Mekong communities and the procedures for regional cooperation in the Mekong, says Kate Ross, a Mekong Programme associate for International Rivers, a US-based international organisation working to protect rivers and the rights of people who rely upon them.
At a meeting of the Joint Committee of the Mekong River Commission in January this year, it was decided that the inter-governmental decision would be raised to a ministerial level. However, this meeting has not happened, and yet construction at the dam site continues.