Mekong Utility Watch

Cancel the Xayaburi Dam

(May 6, 2011) The Save the Mekong coalition and its alliances have called for the halt of construction activity at the dam site and for the Government of Thailand to cancel its plans to purchase the dam’s electricity. Many groups from around the Mekong region have also called for cancellation of the Xayaburi Dam as it would jeopardize the livelihoods and food security of millions of people in the region.

Press Release: For Immediate Release

Save the Mekong Coalition Calls on ASEAN Leaders:

Cancel the Xayaburi Dam

(May 6, 2011) As ASEAN leaders meet for the 18th ASEAN Summit in Jakarta, Indonesia,
the Save the Mekong coalition calls on ASEAN leaders to act immediately to cancel the
Xayaburi Dam in Lao PDR. The call is made in close cooperation with the ASEAN Civil
Society Conference (ACSC)/ASEAN People’s Forum (APF) 2011 held from 2-5 May, where
1,300 people have gathered in Jakarta, Indonesia.

The Save the Mekong coalition and its alliances have called on the Government of Lao PDR
to immediately halt construction activity at the dam site and for the Government of Thailand to cancel its plans to purchase the dam’s electricity. This call has received strong support from many civil society organizations at the ACSC/APF 2011 who have also been demanding since 2009 that ASEAN adopt a Fourth Pillar on the Environment.

Two weeks ago, the inter-governmental Mekong River Commission (MRC) held a Special
Joint Committee meeting to decide whether to approve the proposed Xayaburi Dam, located on the Mekong River’s mainstream in Northern Lao PDR. At the meeting, whilst Lao PDR proposed to proceed with the dam, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam called for an extension to the decision-making process citing concerns about transboundary impacts and knowledge gaps that require further study and public consultation. The four governments agreed to defer the decision to a future Ministerial-level meeting. Yet, the Save the Mekong coalition fears that the project is in fact continuing to move forward given a recent investigative report by the Bangkok Post on 17 April, which revealed that preliminary construction work had already started at the dam site and the process for further regional discussion remains unclear.

Joining a public hearing on Corporate Social Responsibility and ASEAN organized at the
ACSC/APF 2011 on 2 May, Sodsai Sangsok of Thailand’s Northeastern Environmental
Network stated to the public forum that “ASEAN’s Human Rights Mechanism should
acknowledge the fact that the Xayaburi Dam is the main threat to the livelihoods of Mekong people, and take action upon it.”

Furthermore, at a forum at the ACSC/APF 2011 on the ASEAN experience of protecting
rivers and people’s livelihoods, Nguy Thi Khanh, the Coordinator of the Vietnam Rivers
Network stated “The Mekong mainstream should never be used as a test case for proving
and improving large dam hydropower technologies. Rather, ASEAN should play a role in
facilitating development partners to promote alternative solutions for the region’s water
and energy needs, thus helping to ensure sustainable development and the prosperity of the region.”

Another key issue discussed at the ACSC/APF 2011 was the need to review national power
development plans and strategies, especially the proposed ASEAN Power Grid. ACSC/

APF 2011 participants suggested that the ASEAN Power Grid plan should focus on the
sustainability of ASEAN states and ASEAN as a whole, rather than only serving the private
sector’s benefit.

Many groups from around the Mekong region have called for the Xayaburi Dam to be
cancelled and for ASEAN to play more of a role in resolving differences between Mekong
countries.

“The Xayaburi Dam will have enormous impacts on the livelihoods and food security of
millions of people in the region who depend upon the Mekong River’s rich resources,” said
Chhith Sam Ath of The NGO Forum on Cambodia. “For this reason, we ask the ASEAN
Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights to investigate the Xayaburi Dam.”

“We urge ASEAN’s leaders to demonstrate their commitment to regional cooperation by
calling for the cancelation of the Xayaburi Dam,” said Trinh Le Nguyen of Vietnam’s People
and Nature Reconciliation. “Regional cooperation within ASEAN and the Mekong River
Commission will not be realized if member nations do not follow the agreed decision-making process and respect the need for mutual benefits.”

“The rhetoric and actions of the Government of Laos suggest they intend to push forward
with this dam, despite all of the concerns raised by neighboring countries about the
transboundary impacts of the dam and the recent regional agreement to defer the decision to the ministerial level,” said Niwat Roykaew of the Chiang Khong Conservation Group. “By
ignoring this agreement and the public’s opposition to the dam, regional tensions may rise and the livelihoods of millions of people living along the river may be doomed.”

The Mekong River provides the people of the region with an abundance of natural resources, making it central to the livelihoods of millions of people and the lifeline of Southeast Asia.

The Mekong River’s central role in the lives, ecology and cultures of the region should place
the river’s protection as a top priority for decision-makers to ensure sustainable economic
growth, protect food security and promote regional peace and prosperity.

For more information on the Save the Mekong coalition, visit: www.savethemekong.org.

Media Contacts

In Jakarta, Indonesia
Ms. Premrudee Daoroung, Towards Ecological Recovery and Regional Alliance (TERRA)
Tel: +62 82123141914, Email: premrudee@terraper.org

Ms. Nguy Thi Khanh, Centre for Water Resources Conservation and Development
(WARECOD)/Vietnam River Network (VRN) Tel: +84 912713229, Email:
khanh@warecod.org.vn

Thailand
Ms. Pianporn Deetes, International Rivers, Bangkok, Thailand. Tel: +66 814220111, Email:
pai@internationalrivers.org

Cambodia
Mr. Chhith Sam Ath, The NGO Forum on Cambodia (NGOF), Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Tel:
+855 12928585, Email: samath@ngoforum.org.kh

Vietnam
Mr. Trinh Le Nguyen, People and Nature Reconciliation (PanNature), Tel: +84 912095045, Email: nguyen@nature.org.vn

Supporting information

The Xayaburi Dam was first proposed in May 2007, when the Government of Laos signed
a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the project’s lead developer, Thailand’s Ch.
Karnchang Public Company. A Project Development Agreement was later signed between
the Lao government and Ch. Karnchang in November 2008. The dam is proposed to be
built near the Kaeng Luang rapids, approximately 30 kilometers east of Xayaboury town in
Northern Laos. The dam would take eight years to build and would cost approximately US$3.5 billion. The project is expected to generate 1,260 megawatts of electricity, around 95% of which will be exported to Thailand. Major Thai banks, including Kasikorn Bank, Bangkok Bank, Siam Commercial Bank, and Krung Thai Bank have expressed interest in financing the dam.

The Xayaburi Dam, if built, will affect the livelihoods and food security of millions of people
in the region through changes to the river’s ecosystem, sediment flows and fisheries. The
dam will threaten 23 to 100 migratory fish species by blocking these fishes’ migration route.
The dam also threatens the extinction of approximately 41 fish species, including the critically endangered Mekong Giant Catfish. Furthermore, the dam will forcibly resettle over 2,100 people and directly affect over 202,000 people.

The Save the Mekong coalition is a network of non-government organizations, community
groups, academics, journalists, artists, fishers, farmers and ordinary people from within the
Mekong countries and internationally. Since March 2009, the coalition has been calling on
the region’s Prime Ministers and the Mekong River Commission to cancel its plans to build a cascade of eleven large dams planned for the lower Mekong River’s mainstream.

– – – – – – –

The Save the Mekong statement to ASEAN

May 3, 2011

Civil Society Calls on ASEAN: Cancel Xayaburi Dam

On the occasion of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit from 7-
8 May 2011 in Jakarta, Indonesia, the Save the Mekong coalition urgently calls on ASEAN,
and the Lao PDR and Thai governments, to immediately halt construction work at the
proposed Xayaburi dam site in northern Lao PDR, cancel plans to buy electricity, and to
cancel this first dam proposed for the lower Mekong mainstream, which we believe will
cause severe cross-boundary conflict among the ASEAN member countries, especially in the Mekong region.

On 19 April 2011, in a Special Joint Committee meeting of the Mekong River Commission
(MRC), government representatives from Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand and Vietnam
agreed that a decision on the Xayaburi Dam should be deferred until Ministerial-level
government representatives could meet. According to a press release from the MRC, whilst Lao PDR proposed to proceed with the dam, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam called for an extension to the decision-making process, citing concerns about transboundary impacts and knowledge gaps that require both further study and public consultation. Subsequently, at a meeting in Phnom Penh on 23rd April, the Prime Ministers of Vietnam and Cambodia jointly expressed concern about the Xayaburi Dam’s impacts, including on rice and fish production, and urged the Lao PDR and Thai governments to conduct further studies on the project’s downstream consequences.

Yet, an investigative report published on 17th April in the Bangkok Post revealed that
preliminary construction work has already started at the Xayaburi Dam site. Furthermore,
following the MRC meeting, the Lao PDR government publicly indicated its plans to approve the Xayaburi Dam’s construction, and the lead project developer, Thailand’s Ch Karnchang, has stated that it expects to receive this approval within 30 days. Ch. Karnchang’s insistence to proceed immediately with the project contradicts the Thai government’s position at the MRC Special Joint Committee meeting. These actions are contrary to a regional commitment by the governments to cooperate in sharing the Mekong River, ignore extensive scientific evidence about the project’s severe social and environmental impacts, are against the clear demands of civil society and the public that the project be cancelled, and threaten to increase regional tension.

The Xayaburi Dam, if built, will affect the livelihoods and food security of millions of
people in the region through changes to the river’s ecosystem, sediment flows and fisheries.

The dam will threaten 23 to 100 migratory fish species by blocking these fishes’ migration
route. The dam also threatens the extinction of approximately 41 fish species, including the
critically endangered Mekong Giant Catfish. Furthermore, the dam will forcibly resettle
over 2,100 people and directly affect over 202,000 people. Numerous world-renowned
experts have criticized the project and its Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). Fisheries scientists, for example, unanimously agree that the dam’s impacts on fisheries cannot be mitigated.

The Mekong River provides the people of the region with an abundance of natural resources, making it central to the livelihoods of millions of people and the lifeline of Southeast Asia.

The Mekong River’s central role in the lives, ecology and cultures of the region should place
the river’s protection as a top priority for decision-makers to ensure sustainable economic
growth, protect food security and promote regional peace and prosperity.

Widespread public opposition to the dam has been expressed both regionally and
internationally over the past two years through various petitions and letters submitted to the regional governments and MRC. On 18th April, a letter from nearly 10,000 Thai villagers from eight provinces was submitted to the Lao Embassy in Bangkok and the Thai Prime Minister raising concerns about the project’s transboundary impacts and calling on the Lao and Thai governments to cancel the Xayaburi Dam. At the same time, a petition signed by more than 15,000 people from around the world was presented to the Embassies of Lao PDR and Thailand in Berlin and Paris calling for the cancellation of the Xayaburi Dam, while a second petition signed by more than 2,300 people globally was also presented to members of the MRC’s Council. An earlier Save the Mekong petition of 23,110 signatures was submitted to the region’s Prime Ministers in October 2009, and in March 2011 a letter from 263 non-governmental organizations to the Prime Ministers of Lao PDR and Thailand also called for the cancellation of the Xayaburi Dam.

The Xayaburi Dam is a cross-border investment project between Thailand and Lao PDR
that represents a serious threat to hundreds of thousands of people, the environment, and
security region-wide. We therefore urge ASEAN to call on Lao PDR to cancel the Xayaburi
Dam project and on Thailand to commit to not buy its electricity. We also urge ASEAN, as
a mechanism of regional cooperation that should ensure regional sustainable development
and peaceful cooperation between countries, to acknowledge the Xayaburi dam and other
dams on the Mekong mainstream as examples of projects that contain a high potential for
creating irreversible cross-border impacts and that should have no place in ASEAN’s future development. The role of the governments and the private sector in such projects should be reviewed in the light of acceptable regional and international standards. We furthermore urge the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) to investigate the project.

Since 2009, civil society groups from the ASEAN member countries have been calling for
a Fourth Strategic Pillar on the Environment through the ASEAN Civil Society Conference
(ACSC)/ ASEAN Peoples’ Forum (APF) process. Our call on ASEAN to act to cancel the
Xayabouri dam exemplifies the need for the establishment of the Environment Pillar, and also stands in solidarity with the ACSC/APF 2011 that will be held in Jakarta, Indonesia during 3-5 May, prior to the ASEAN Summit.

The Save the Mekong coalition is a network of non-government organizations,
community groups, academics, journalists, artists, fishers, farmers and ordinary people
from within the Mekong countries and internationally. For more information on the
coalition and the impacts of the planned Mekong mainstream dams in English and regional
languages, please visit: www.SavetheMekong.org.

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