Published daily by the Lowy Institute

MRC bows out of Don Sahong discussions

MRC bows out of Don Sahong discussions

There has been little news of the much criticised proposed dam at Don Sahong in the far south of Laos since the beginning of the year, when the Mekong River Commission (MRC) arranged for a series of public meetings to be held in member countries to discuss the dam.

From the start, these meetings showed that opinion on the dam was polarised, with Laos determined to build the dam and the downstream countries, Cambodia and Vietnam, opposed to its construction. Meanwhile, in a little reported step forward, in February 2015 the Malaysian company constructing the dam, Mega First, signed a memorandum for the sale of electricity from the dam once it is completed with the state-owned Electricite de Laos.

It has now been reported that the MRC Council, the highest body within the Commission, has failed to reach any conclusion in relation to the proposed Don Sahong dam and has returned the issue to the interested governments – Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam.

In reporting this development Radio Free Asia makes the claim that, as has long been suspected, Mega First is continuing to proceed with construction at the dam's site without any agreement from its fellow MRC members. Only last week a well-informed observer based in Laos made the same claim to me. Access to the dam site is limited for outside observers, making up-to-date information difficult to obtain.

Despite the previous lack of news in relation to the Don Sahong dam, nothing has changed in terms of the serious threat it poses to the fish stocks and the flow of nutrient rich-sediment for the downstream countries. Despite some past suggestions that there might be an 'ASEAN solution' to the problems arising from the dam's proposed construction, there is no evidence to support such a prospect.

Everything points to the likelihood that Laos will succeed in constructing two dams on the Mekong's mainstream, given that its construction of the dam at Xayaburi is also moving rapidly ahead.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user David.

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