Vietnam and Cambodia hit back at landmark Laos dam

Fri Jan 18, 2013 5:05am EST
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By Amy Sawitta Lefevre and Paul Carsten

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Vietnam urged Laos to halt construction of a $3.5 billion hydropower dam pending further study, environmental activists said on Friday after a meeting of the Mekong River Commission.

The activists said Cambodia, also downriver from the Xayaburi dam, accused Laos during heated discussions on Wednesday and Thursday of failing to consult on the project.

The dam in northern Laos, the first of 11 planned for the lower Mekong river running through Southeast Asia, threatens the livelihood of tens of millions who depend on the river's aquatic resources, activists say.

"Vietnam requested that no further developments on the Mekong mainstream occur until the Mekong mainstream dams study agreed upon at least year's Council Meeting is completed," International Rivers, an NGO devoted to river conservation, said in a statement.

"The Cambodian delegation asserted that Laos had misinterpreted the Mekong Agreement."

Officials from Cambodia and Vietnam were not immediately available for comment.

Ministers from member countries that make up the Mekong River Commission (MRC) overseeing the river's development -- Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Thailand -- met in northern Laos on Wednesday and Thursday.

The MRC is bound by treaty to hold inter-governmental consultations before dams are built. But members have no veto.   Continued...

Locals manoeuvre their small vessels along the Mekong river in Phnom Penh November 7, 2012. REUTERS/Samrang Pring