The agreement by Mekong River Commission Countries to conduct more studies before they decide on Laos’ proposal for the first Lower Mekong dam received further support on Friday, with an influential US senator and an environmental group welcoming it as an important step in preventing harm to the river’s crucially important ecosystem.
Questions remain, however: Will the delay lessen Laos’ resolve to push ahead with mainstream Mekong dams? And will a delay to this mainstream Mekong dam matter when so many other projects are going ahead on its tributaries and the Upper Mekong in China?
Those projects are also expected to seriously affect the river’s fisheries, as well as agriculture in the region.
On Thursday evening, after extensive negotiations, the ministers of the four MRC countries – Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam – agreed to carry out more environmental impact studies with the help of Japan before they would consider approving Laos’ 1,260-megawatt Xayaburi dam. Construction work on the Xayaburi is suspended during the studies, while no fixed timeline has been scheduled for the research to conclude.
Senator Jim Webb, a member of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in a statement that the MRC countries’ agreement was “an important step toward responsible policy that will protect the economic and environmental conditions of more than 60 million people” living along the Lower Mekong…