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Societies urge rethink of Xayaburi Dam
By Ngoc Lan - The Saigon Times Daily
Thursday,  Mar 17, 2011,01:05 (GMT+7)

By Ngoc Lan - The Saigon Times Daily

HANOI – Six Vietnamese societies active in water resources conservation have called for the Lower Mekong River countries to postpone decision-making on the proposed Xayaburi Hydropower Dam project in Laos, citing potential devastating impacts.

Those societies are the Vietnam Union of Science and Technology Associations (VUSTA), Center for Water Resources Conservation and Development (WARECOD), Vietnam Rivers Network (VRN), Vietnam Water Partnership (VNWP), Center for Integrated Water Resources Management (CIWAREM), and Centre for Sustainable Water Resources Development and Adaptation to Climate Change (CEWAREC).

At a seminar on the matter held in Hanoi on Tuesday, the six organizations wanted to inform the public of the project and its impacts on the livelihood of local communities and the environment in the lower reaches of the Mekong River, including Vietnam’s Mekong Delta.

Laos is planning to spend US$3.5 billion building the 810-meter-long Xayaburi dam on the mainstream of the river which is one of the world’s most biodiverse river systems and cultivates a vast web of life in Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam.

VRN describes Xayaburi – which became the first to be submitted to the regional countries in September last year among a dozen mainstream dams that would be developed in the Lower Mekong River – as a potential catastrophe to water resources and fisheries in the river basin.

Truong Hong Tien, vice head of the Vietnam National Mekong Committee Office, said the consultation process on the proposed dam would conclude on April 22, or six months after its submission to the regional countries.

When it comes to considering damming projects with basin-wide impacts, there is a regional decision-making process known as “Procedures for Notification, Prior Consultation and Agreement” (PNPCA).

Through national consultations, Cambodia and Vietnam have shown grave concerns about the project, Tien said, adding professionals had said six months for consultation was too short, so they had proposed postponing decision-making on the proposed mainstream dams, including Xayaburi, for 10 years.

After two rounds of consultation, Vietnam has suggested delaying decision-making on Xayaburi since Laos has yet to provide sufficient documentation about the project.

Vietnam has expressed concerns the project will have a deleterious impact on the nation’s Mekong Delta where the livelihood of 18 million people depends on rice and fish farming.

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