NGO’s Backs Vietnam’s Proposal on Xayaburi

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) said Wednesday Laos’ controversial Xayaburi dam project should be extended for 10 years pending thorough research on cross-border environmental and economic impacts.

Jake Brunner, a national program coordinator of IUCN Vietnam told Tuoitre that his organization supports Vietnamese government’s suggestion in which all hydropower plant projects in the mainstream of Mekong River like Xayaburi should be postponed for 10 years.

Vietnam is especially vulnerable to grave threats from these power projects, Jake said, as they would cut off a valuable sediment resource to its Mekong River Delta and easily drown the region during rainy seasons.

Ho Chi Minh City, an economic center of Vietnam, will be exposed to tropical storms, adding to the already imminent threats of rising sea level caused by global warming.

According to Jake, the Xayaburi hydropower project is equal to an issue of national security.

The organization is coordinating talks within the framework of Mekong Region Waters Dialogues, a Finland-funded project, to increase transparency of water resource management in Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam.

IUCN’s statement was made following a recent meeting of the Mekong River Commission (MRC) including four Lower Mekong River countries of Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam held in Laotian capital of Vientiane Tuesday.

According to MRC, all parties agreed that a final decision on the prior consultation process for the proposed Xayaburi project would be tabled for consideration at the ministerial level, as they could not come to a common conclusion on how to proceed with the project.

At the meeting Laos insisted there was no need to extend the consultation process, and transboundary environmental impacts on other countries are unlikely.
They did not mention they would stop or continue building Xayaburi hydropower plant, said Surasakglahan, a spokesman of the Secretariat of MRC.

However, Cambodia, Thailand and Viet Nam raised concerns over lack of comprehensive studies on the project’s impacts on the environment and livelihoods in the Mekong Basin and the need for more public consultations.

Vietnam’s scientists continue to voice opposition.

“Laos has assessed the project’s environmental impact but it only focuses on the dam’s construction area, not other lower countries like Vietnam or Cambodia,” Le Phat Quoi, head of the Environment and Resource Institution, HCM National University said.

Also, it hasn’t mentioned any impact on our Mekong River Delta,”

“If this project continues, others will follow suit, like Cambodia’s Stung Treng, which will not only threaten Vietnam’s Mekong River Delta,”
“But also flood a part’s of Laos,” he explained.

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