Norconsult Environmental Report Criticized

Norwegian consultancy Norconsult in 2007 produced an Initial Environmental Examinations (IEEs) for the Nam Kong 1 and Sekong 4 hydropower projects for the Lao government.
The report for Sekong 4 warns that “the reservoir will change the hydrology of the river significantly both upstream and downstream,” with “the release of poor quality water from the reservoir [having] an effect upon the aquatic flora and fauna in the first stretches of the river below the dam, tending to reduce both diversity and populations.”
Local NGO’s in Cambodia feel, however, at this warning is not sufficient, according to an article in Phnom Penh Post on 12 June. In the article, the authors Sebastian Strangio and Vong Sokheng write that Norconsult is under criticism by NGO’s for not focusing sufficiently on the effects on fisheries on the Cambodian side.
According to the article, more criticism is under way in a forthcoming report by Rivers International. The report predicts “heavy downstream fisheries losses, amounting to an estimated $18.7 million per year and affecting hundreds of thousands of people [and] leading to a loss of approximately 71 percent of the total fish catch.” It points out that these estimates have “likely been underestimated.”
Rivers International is also concerned with the apparent lack of dialogue between the Lao and Cambodian governments.
“We need the government to play a role in exploring what impacts are being generated by hydropower projects in Laos,” Ngy San, deputy executive director of the NGO Forum on Cambodia is quoted in the article.
“Will we get the environmental impact assessment submitted to the Lao government? There should be transparency [but] the information is not here,” Ngy San said. “We have tried to obtain information but all the information to date is unofficial.”
Cambodia National Mekong Committee secretary general Pich Dun said the potential negative effects of the dam projects have been greatly exaggerated.
“I do not know about any serious downstream effects on Cambodia. We have not had any complaints from the local villagers,” he said.
He acknowledged, however, the negative effects on fisheries but said “both Cambodia and Laos will try to encourage proper cooperation in the resolving this issue.”
Bun Hean, chairman on the Standing Committee on Dams and Canals along the border of Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos and Thailand, also disavowed any knowledge of serious effects stemming from hydropower developments on the Sekong.

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