Bangkok - International donors to the Mekong River Commission on Thursday raised concerns about Laos' decision to go ahead with the Xayaburi Dam on the Mekong and the commission's refusal to invite the World Wildlife Fund to its meeting.
"We remain concerned about the social impacts and environmental risks associated with the construction of the Xayaburi hydropower plant in Laos," the donors said in their Joint Development Partners Statement to the inter-governmental Mekong River Commission (MRC),which held its annual ministerial meeting in Luang Prabang, Laos, on Wednesday and Thursday.
The donors, who contribute the lion's share of the MRC's annual budget, also said they were "highly concerned that WWF, a partner organisation which has participated in MRC council meetings since2001, have not been invited to this meeting." Laos in November decided to go ahead with the 3.5-billion-dollarXayaburi hydropower project, a joint venture between the Lao government and Thai firms, despite requests from MRC members for a comprehensive environmental impact study.
Cambodia and Vietnam, which lie downstream and are likely to be most impacted by the Xayaburi dam, have opposed its construction and continued to raise questions about the project Thursday, sources at the meeting said.
The issue has raised questions about the effectiveness of the Mekong River Commission, set up in 1995 between Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam to jointly manage economic developments on the river.
The dam would be the first to be built on the lower Mekong. China has built four dams on the upper Mekong. Another 10 dams are planned on the lower Mekong.
"It is our consensus that building dams on the mainstream of the Mekong may irrevocably change the river and hence constitute a challenge for food security, sustainable development and biodiversity conservation," said the donors' statement.
Past commission meetings raised concerns about the impact of the Xayaburi Dam on fish migration and sediment flows.
In December 2011, the MRC agreed that a comprehensive environmental impact study of developments on the river would be conducted over the next 10 years, but Laos insisted on proceeding with the Xayaburi project in the meantime.