Date: December 02, 2011
Quiet morning on the mighty Mekong

According to a press statement from International Rivers, 22,589 people from 106 countries have submitted an petition to the prime ministers of Laos and Thailand, calling for cancellation of the proposed Xayaburi Dam on the Mekong River in Northern Laos . The petition comes the week before the four Mekong governments meet on 8 December in Siem Reap, Cambodia, where they are likely to decide whether to proceed with the project

The Xayaburi Dam is the first of 11 dams proposed for the lower Mekong River. The petition expresses grave concern about the future of the lower Mekong Basin, and urges the prime ministers to cancel the project and defer all decisions on Mekong dams for a period of at least ten years, until further studies can be conducted.

“The people of Southeast Asia and concerned citizens around the world have once again voiced their opposition to the Xayaburi Dam,” said Pianporn Deetes, Thailand campaign co-ordinator for International Rivers. “The whole world is watching. We do not want to remember December 8th as the day the Mekong died.”

The petition comes a day after the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee unanimously approved a resolution calling for the protection of the Mekong River Basin and for delaying mainstream dam construction along the river. The resolution calls for the US Government to allocate more funding to help identify sustainable alternatives to mainstream hydropower dams and to analyze the impacts of proposed development along the river.

The Committee’s adoption of this resolution sends a timely signal of US support for the Mekong River Commission’s efforts to preserve the ecological and economic stability of Southeast Asia,” Senator Jim Webb, chair of the Senate East Asian and Pacific Affairs Subcommittee, said in a statement. “The United States and the global community have a strategic interest in preserving the health and well-being of the more than 60 million people who depend on the Mekong River.”

Although Laos is proposing the dam, Thailand is also playing a key role as investor, project developer, and purchaser of 95 percent of the dam’s electricity. The petition calls on the government of Thailand to cancel its plans to purchase electricity from the Xayaburi Dam and any other Mekong mainstream dams.

“Laos has a duty under international law to provide enough information about the regional impacts of the Xayaburi project to allow its neighbours to make an informed decision, but it has yet to do so,” said Sor.Rattanamanee Polkla, a lawyer for the Community Resources Centre in Thailand and a member of Mekong Legal Network.

“Moreover, Thailand, as the primary beneficiary of the dam, should be equally responsible for providing more information about the project’s impacts. Under international best practice, Thailand should assess all energy options before deciding to dam a river of such importance for millions of people’s livelihoods, in line with the recommendations of the Strategic Environmental Assessment sponsored by the Mekong River Commission.”

At a meeting in April, the governments of Cambodia, Thailand, and Vietnam raised concerns about the Xayaburi Dam’s trans-boundary impacts and recommended further study and public consultations. The four governments could not agree on a solution, and elevated the decision to the coming ministerial meeting.