A coalition of international environmental organizations launched a campaign to raise awareness of the need to protect the environment and oppose the construction of hydropower dams on the Mekong River.
coalition, called Towards Ecological Recovery and Regional Alliance or TERRA,
was formed in March 2009 and consists of Thai and international organizations that
aim to protect the Mekong River’s natural resources, said TERRA coordinator Premreudee
The alliance’s current campaign of disseminating information and news relating to the Mekong River is aimed at raising public awareness, within Thailand and abroad, about the risks associated with the building of hydropower dams on the river. They also hope to influence policy makers to adopt more sustainable ways to meet energy and water needs in the sub-region.
The coalition hopes to gain support from the public by collecting as many signatures as possible between March and April, locally and internationally, from people concerned about the river’s future.
The signatures are being gathered on postcards which will then be submitted to the governments of the six riparian countries, namely China, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam, to call on these governments to stop the 19 dam projects planned or currently being built on the Mekong and let the river follow its natural course, as well as look for other alternatives.
Of the 19 dam projects, eight are to be in China, which has already built three and plans to build the remaining five within the next ten years. Nine dams are being planned for Laos, with seven to be built inside the country and two on the section of the Mekong that borders Laos and Thailand. The remaining two are planned for Cambodia and are in the feasibility study phase.
Since the electricity from the nine dams to be built in Laos and on the border with neighboring Thailand will be sold mainly to Thailand, the coalition also plans to encourage Thai people to oppose their government’s plan to purchase electricity from Laos.
Suthep Kritsanavarin, a leading Thai photographer, spent three years traveling to Laos to document the life of fishermen in the Siphandone or Four Thousand Islands area in Champassack province in southern Laos.
He expressed his concerns over the potential damage to the area’s beautiful sceneries and the richness of animal species living in the river, including the Irrawaddy dolphins.
Mr. Kritsanavarin warned that the fresh water dolphins will definitely become endangered if the Lao government allows investors to build dams along the Mekong River.
“I think that the construction of dams should be stopped because it does not only impact electricity but also on the fish and, most importantly, on the six million people living in Laos, a landlocked country, who rely on the fish from this river,” said Mr. Kritsanavarin . “It is very important to weigh the energy needs and the risk that could be brought about by building these dams.”
The seven dam projects inside Laos and the two to be built on the Mekong bordering Laos and Thailand, are to be constructed in Luang Prabang, Pakbeng, Paklay, Sayabouly, Sanakham, Pakxom, Ban Koum, Ladsub, and Done Sahong.
Songrit Pongern reported from Bangkok on 03/21/09. (English translation by Buasawan Simmala and Dara Baccam)
Listen to our audio files for more details in Lao.