Laos urged to halt Mekong dam work

Laos urged to halt Mekong dam work

Cambodian fishing communities along the Mekong River on Wednesday called on the Lao government to halt the construction of dams on the international river so a wide-ranging ecological impact study can be carried out.

The groups vowed to step up their fight to stop the dams in a bid to protect their communities.

Long Sochet, leader of the Tonle Sap Fisher Network, said he is concerned about the possible negative consequences of the dam projects in Laos.

The landlocked country is planning 12 Mekong River dam projects, two of which — the Xayaburi and Don Sahong dams — are now under construction.

The dams will damage freshwater fish populations in the Great Tonle Sap Lake, which is the main source of food for more than four million Cambodians, he said.

The activist added the Don Sahong dam will block a vital passage of water that allows fish to breed in Tonle Sap Lake and other Mekong tributaries in Thailand and Vietnam.

The natural habitat for marine life and fishing communities along the Mekong River will be completely destroyed once the dams are built, he said.

"We can't do anything, except fish. We understand that power is important, but we don't want power. We cannot live if there are dams on the river. We want to make it clear that the Lao government should stop the projects and financial institutions should stop giving them money to kill us," Long Sochet said.

He called on the Lao government to suspend the dam projects immediately and conduct a comprehensive study to determine the impact of the plans, with the participation of local communities.

His group also wants all governments of Mekong River countries to stop supporting the dam projects and has urged private construction companies and international financial institutions to stop investing and providing monetary support for the schemes.

Cambodian fishing communities and charities are meanwhile planning to file a complaint against a Malaysian power plant with the Human Rights Commission in Malaysia.

They say the company violated the rights of locals by conducting an impact study into the Don Sahong dam without the participation of villagers who stood to be directly affected.

Cambodian fishing community leaders are on a field trip to Ubon Ratchathani province to study how the Pak Moon dam affected local Thai fishing communities.

Sompong Vienchan, a representative of villagers living near Pak Moon, said dams will be the downfall of fishing communities along the Mekong.

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