Ensure Mekong River projects don’t harm riparian countries: Vietnam

By Viet Anh   May 14, 2020 | 06:55 am PT
Ensure Mekong River projects don’t harm riparian countries: Vietnam
A satellite image on January 3, 2020, shows Xayaburi Dam sitting astride the Mekong River, which has turned blue due to drought and other factors reducing sediment, near the town of Xayaboury, Laos. Photo by Reuters.
Hydropower projects must not affect people’s lives in riparian countries negatively, Vietnam’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said Thursday.

Le Thi Thu Hang was responding to a query about Laos’s plan to build another dam on the Mekong River at an online press meet.

"The development of hydropower projects on the Mekong River’s main flow needs to ensure that they cause no negative effects, including transborder impacts on the environment and socio-economic life of riparian countries, especially those situated downstream, in accordance with international customs and regulations set out by the Mekong River Commission (MRC)."

Laos is preparing to undertake prior consultation for the Sanakham hydropower project, the MRC said on Monday. The project, which would cost over $2 billion, is expected to begin construction this year and finish in 2028. The dam expects to operate continuously, all-year-round and produce 684 megawatts of electricity. The energy generated by the project will mainly be sold to Thailand.

Laos currently has five hydropower projects on the Mekong River’s main flow: the Xayaburi, Don Sahong, Pak Beng, Pak Lay and Luang Prabang dams. The Xayaburi dam began operation last October, while the Don Sahong opened this January.

As a country situated at the Mekong River’s downstream, Vietnam pays much attention to the transborder impacts of hydropower projects on the river’s main flow. Vietnam has for multiple times said that countries have a legitimate interest in using the river’s water resources to develop, while having the mutual responsibility to use these resources sustainably.

"Vietnam wishes to and is willing to enhance cooperation with riparian countries to manage and utilize the river’s water resources effectively and sustainably, while ensuring to balance the interests of these countries and to not negatively affect people’s lives in the area," said Hang.

Recent studies by the MRC have shown that drought in the lower Mekong Basin has increased in frequency and severity in recent decades. Water levels in the river also reached critically low levels in summer last year, said the commission in a press release in July last year.

The dam system on the Mekong River is a factor that led to massive declines in water levels, which severely disrupted lives of millions who depend on the river for their livelihood, said experts.

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