New dam on Mekong looms
Representatives from Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam gathered in Vientiane on Thursday to launch a six-month consultation process on what would be the third mainstream hydropower dam in Laos’s Lower Mekong River. Laos first signalled its intention to move ahead with the proposed 912-megawatt Pak Beng dam in November. Thursday’s meeting, part of a 1995 agreement that aims to promote the sustainable development of the Mekong area, set the roadmap for how the four neighbours will assess the environmental and social impacts of the project over the coming months. “We will have an assessment of the project document and hire international experts to assist with the evaluation,” confirmed Te Navuth, a member of the Cambodian National Mekong Committee who attended the meeting. The process was devised by the Mekong River Commission to give regional states a say over development projects that could have cross-border impacts. But critics say it has in practice had little influence over whether a country moves ahead with a project, and is often used to give controversial hydropower dams a veneer of legitimacy.