Civic group seeks China green help to stymie dam

Civic group seeks China green help to stymie dam

Local civic groups will seek help from Friends of Nature (FON), a renowned conservation group in China, for its campaign against dam projects on the Mekong River.

Rak Chiang Khong, local conservation group based in Chiang Rai province is contacting the Beijing-based FON to seek advice on Chinese overseas investments in dam projects, Sor Rattanamanee Polkla, a lawyer for the Mekong Legal Network told the Bangkok Post. The group, she said, is inspired by the lawsuit filed by FON against a Chinese dam developer and energy company.

FON last Friday sued a Chinese dam construction company and environmental consultation firm for developing a hydropower station near a nature reserve in southwestern China, citing potential environmental violations. The dam, yet to be built, is located across the Luosuo River, a tributary of Lancang, China's name for the Mekong.

One of the two defendants, Kunming Engineering, is conducting an environmental impact assessment for the Pak Beng dam on the Mekong River that has upset the Thai conservation group.

Located in Laos, the Pak Beng dam is a joint investment between Datang (Lao) Pak Beng Hydropower Co Ltd, owned by Chinese investors, the Lao government and EGCO Group, a subsidiary of the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat). Some of the electricity would be sold to Thailand.

Sor Rattanamanee said the lawsuit filed by FON serves as precedent. "This case is the first lawsuit on the environment which has been filed for a project which is not yet complete. FON did not wait to see the impact but the group sued companies for future environmental impacts had the project been built."

The group wanted to learn more about environmental law in China especially the newly enacted regulation on Chinese overseas investment, also known as "Measures for the Administration of Outbound Investment by Enterprises". Passed by the Chinese government on Dec 26, the measures were enacted on March 1.

Created to make Chinese outbound investment more transparent, the measure covers Chinese outbound investment, "sensitive sectors" including research, manufacturing and repair of weaponry, and exploitation of cross-border water resources, for example.

The Rak Chiang Khong Conservation Group has fought development projects on the Mekong River. Villagers have accused dam developers of causing ecological damage to the river. Pak Beng dam is one of 11 dams to be built on the lower Mekong River, not to mention upstream dams already built in China's Lancang River.

The group, representing communities along the river in Thailand, has filed a lawsuit against authorities in the Thai Administrative Court for failing to provide information and ensure inclusive participation.

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