Vientiane planning a new dam on the Mekong. Criticism from activists and neighboring countries

The 912 megawatt Pak Beng hydroelectric plant would be the third managed by Vietiane, that aims to become the "battery of Asia." Mekong River Commission impeached, for facilitating Laos in the two previous projects: "This time we will ensure a more thorough review of the project". One of the richest ecosystems in the world at risk.


Vientiane (AsiaNews / RFA) - Environmental activists are concerned about the demands made by the government of Laos to open a third dam on the Mekong River. The implementation of the project would endanger the lives of 60 million people who depend on the ecosystem of the river. Vientiane wants to open a new 912-megawatt plant in Pak Beng, in the northern province of Oudomxay, to make the country the "battery of Asia" by building a series of hydroelectric dams along the river and its tributaries.

Laos has delivered a notification to the Mekong River Commission (MRC) of its intention to build the dam. This organ was recognized in 1995 by Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam as a platform for regional cooperation, when the three countries signed the Agreement for cooperation on sustainable development in the Mekong basin. The river, along nearly 5 thousand kilometers, rises in China and flows into southern Vietnam after having also touched on Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia and Thailand.

For years, these countries have been racing each other to exploit the waters of the river (and obtain valuable electricity), threatening its biodiversity, which is one of the richest in the world. It is estimated that the income on fishing in the Mekong is worth three billion dollars a year.

In recent months the MRC has seen a drastic decrease in funds, after international donors criticized the body for being an accomplice of the Lao projects that have endangered neighboring countries. The reference is to the Xayaburi and Don Sahong dams, whose manufacturers published an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) based on incomplete and inaccurate research.

Pham Tuan Phan, managing director of the MRC, has defended the actions of the organization: "We learned from the two previous cases and the Secretariat is ready to assist member countries in the revision of the project, to assess the technical aspects to arrive at a conclusion in an inclusive way. "