Laos has announced that the controversial Xayaburi Dam will go forward. The concerns of neighboring countries remain unanswered. How did the project get to this point, and what does this tell us about water diplomacy in the Mekong region?
For three weeks, indigenous people in Sarawak, Malaysia have blockaded access to the Murum Dam construction site. The international hydropower industry has insisted that the project is an example of "best practice."
Australian broadcaster SBS recently apologized to dam builder Hydro Tasmania for airing an investigative story on the human rights violations caused by 12 dams in Sarawak, Malaysia. But is Hydro Tasmania really off the hook?
Finnish company Pöyry Group has denied allegations of ethical misconduct in its role in the Xayaburi Hydropower Project in Laos. Looking back, however, we can see that Pöyry has played a significant role in the ongoing conflict between the Mekong governments.
After only a few weeks, Laos’ effort to paint the Xayaburi Dam as an environmentally responsible project is falling apart. On August 2nd, a consulting company for the project issued a press release distancing itself from claims made by Laos.
The Xayaburi Dam controversy continues as the Lao government declares its intention to unilaterally continue construction, despite opposition from neighboring countries. Laos appears to be testing the waters to see how far it can push the project without creating conflict.
Construction on the controversial Xayaburi Hydropower Project just recently began, but local communities have already felt the impacts. In June 2012, we traveled down the Mekong River in Laos for five days to visit 15 of the villages near the dam site.
On December 8th, we watched the future of the Mekong River hang by the threads of a single meeting. Government ministers from Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam met to decide whether to approve Laos’ controversial Xayaburi Dam, the first of 12 large dams across the Mainstream Mekong River. Scientists warn that the dams would decimate the Mekong River’s fish population and threaten the food security of more than 2 million people, but the projects have crept forward nonetheless.
On December 7-8th, the governments of Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam will meet and are likely to decide if the controversial Xayaburi Dam will go forward. The dam would be located in Laos, but would cause significant harm in Cambodia and Vietnam – so who takes the blame? The dam would drastically reduce the number of fish that are able to migrate upstream to their breeding grounds, depriving people in the region of an essential source of food and jobs. It would also prevent nutrients from traveling downstream to farmers who grow rice and other crops in Cambodia and the Mekong River Delta.
Protecting rivers and defending the rights of the communities that depend on them.
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