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Experts say assessment of Laos’ dam unconvincing

Published on 15 October 2014 Lao PDR

Experts have cast doubt on the environment impact statement for the project to build Don Sahong dam over the Mekong River in Laos, saying if the neighboring country proceeds with the project, the Mekong Delta region will be adversely affected.

Speaking at the conference on Laos’ Don Sahong hydropower project held in Can Tho City on September 25, Nguyen Huu Thien, an independent expert, said when a certain project is suspected to cause harms to humans or the environment, the investor has to prove the contrary.

“In this case, Laos has to prove Don Sahong hydropower dam will not impact humans and the environment in surrounding areas,” Thien said, citing this international practice.

However, according to Thien, the environmental assessment released by Laos is not convincing.

Compared to the controversial Xayaburi dam, the environmental assessment for Don Sahong dam has been much improved but is not convincing enough, Thien said.

The assessment analyzed only five passages around the dam and concluded there are three affected by the project. Meanwhile, the area around the dam has up to 17 passages. Impacts of water flows and changes of sediment as well as cross-border impacts have not been mentioned, according to Thien.

“After researching and analyzing the assessment, I find it has not assessed all risks in terms of the environment, ecosystem, fishery resources in the downstream area of the Mekong River, especially in Vietnam and Cambodia,” Le Anh Tuan, deputy director of the Research Institute for Climate Change at Can Tho University, said on the sidelines of the conference.

Construction of dams in the Mekong River’s upstream area, according to Tuan, will result in four main impacts: changing the water flows in both quantity and quality, reduce the volume of alluvium in the Mekong Delta region, affecting fish migration and change the ecosystem in the delta region.

“It also carries many other hidden risks,” Tuan said. He added Vietnam should continue reporting the case so that Laos can make more efforts in reducing damages to other countries when it exploits resources of the Mekong River.

Source: Eco-Business | 3 October 2014