The Mekong River means life: stop the Don Sahong Dam

An Irrawaddy dolphin's head above the water The critically endangered Irrawaddy dolphin (photo: Flickr/exilism (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)) (© Flickr/exilism (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0))
99,369 supporters

End of campaign: Sep 28, 2015

The future of the Mekong River’s ecosystem and her people are in jeopardy, as plans to build the Don Sahong Dam – the second dam on the Lower Mekong mainstream – rapidly progress. Call on Mekong Prime Ministers to stop the potentially disastrous project.

Call to action

To: the Prime Ministers of Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and Thailand

Call on Mekong Prime Ministers to stop the Don Sahong Dam project and protect the future of the Mekong River’s ecosystem and her people.

Read letter

The Mekong River is the mother of all Southeast Asian rivers, providing life-sustaining resources to millions of people. The future of the Mekong and her people are in jeopardy, however. The government of Laos plans to build the Don Sahong Dam – the second dam proposed for construction on the Lower Mekong mainstream – on the main pathway in the Mekong that allows for year-round fish migration. If built, the Don Sahong Dam will entirely block the Hou Sahong Channel, endangering fish migration throughout the region, with far-reaching consequences for food and livelihood security in Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam.

Lives in this area and throughout the Mekong are intricately entwined with the river that provides an identity and rich history, as well as a source of income and food security. The planned site of the Don Sahong Dam is a unique section of the Mekong River, home to one of the last remaining populations of critically endangered Irrawaddy dolphins as well as the iconic Khone Phapheng waterfalls, and near an internationally protected Ramsar wetland site in downstream Cambodia.

All four governments of the Mekong region are expected to meet in January, at the end of a six-month regional consultation process, to decide the future of the Don Sahong Dam.

Now is the time for us to make our voices heard and call on Mekong leaders to stop gambling with the lives of their people and future of the vital resources the river supports. 

Please call on the governments of Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam to cancel the Don Sahong Dam and seek more sustainable energy options to protect the future of the Mekong River’s fish and her people.

Back­ground

Since September 2013, the Government of Laos has been working hard to push the Don Sahong Dam forward, beginning construction before consultation with neighboring governments and without sufficient studies to measure the transboundary impacts of the project. Mitigation measures put forward by the developer have also not been proven effective. Cambodia and Vietnam have expressed strong concern about the potential impacts of the Don Sahong Dam and called for a 10-year moratorium on all dam building on the Mekong.

The Don Sahong Dam, which would be located in Siphandone (Khone Falls), Southern Laos, would be the second in a cascade of eleven dams that are planned for construction on the lower stretch of the Mekong River’s mainstream.

The project appears to be following the same destructive path as the Xayaburi Dam, the first dam in the cascade, which is now under construction in northern Laos. Work on the Xayaburi Dam began despite a lack of agreement between all four Mekong countries, without sufficient consultation with affected communities in Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam and without clear studies or designs for the dam. The government of Laos is taking a similar approach to the development of the Don Sahong Dam, ignoring calls to put the project on hold until the potential impact of the Don Sahong Dam, along with other dams planned on the mainstream, has been properly assessed.

The Don Sahong Dam simply does not add up. For at most only 260 MW of electricity for export to Thailand or Cambodia, the dam threatens vital Mekong River fisheries and the area's biological wealth, and would undermine regional food security. Furthermore, the failures of regional cooperation and unequal costs that would be borne throughout the Mekong River Basin threaten the economic and political stability of the region. A precautionary approach is essential to sustain present and future generations that depend on the Mekong River. Efforts must be made to democratize energy planning processes and develop alternative solutions to meet the region's energy needs – solutions that prioritize the health of the Mekong River and the future of her people. While Laos will make the final decision over whether or not to build the dam, all four Mekong governments have signed onto the 1995 Mekong Agreement committing them to cooperate and sustainably manage and protect the river, so ultimately, they all must act in a responsible manner and ensure that the construction of this dam does not proceed.

More information:

A Thousand Times: How the Don Sahong Dam Endangers Communities

a video by EarthRights International

Factsheet on the Don Sahong Dam

Independent review of the Don Sahong Dam Environmental Impact Assessment 

Factsheet on Mekong Mainstream Dams

Letter

To: the Prime Ministers of Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and Thailand

H.E. Samdech Akkak Moha Sena Padei Techo Hun Sen,
The Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Cambodia

H.E Thongsing Thammavong,
The Prime Minister of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic

H.E Nguyen Tan Dung,
The Prime Minister of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam

H.E Prayuth Chan-ocha
The Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Thailand

Your Excellencies,

We, the undersigned are writing to express our serious concern about the Don Sahong Dam, in southern Laos, and the future of livelihoods and food security throughout the Mekong region.

The Mekong River is of global importance, supporting a unique biodiversity which is rivaled only by the Amazon River. The Mekong is home to the world’s largest and most productive inland fishery, and is a vital resource for the entire Mekong region and a lifeline for our planet. The proposed Don Sahong Dam would block the main pathway in the Mekong – the Hou Sahong Channel - that is used year-round by fish migrating throughout the region. The impacts of this project would be disastrous for inland fisheries and subsequently the food security and livelihoods of millions.

The proposed mitigation measures, upon which the project’s success hinges, have never been tested in the Mekong region and regional experts have expressed fears that the measures will not be sufficient to offset the loss of the Hou Sahong Channel for fish migration. The Mekong’s critically endangered Irrawaddy dolphin and a Ramsar wetland site in Cambodia will also suffer impacts. There is too much at stake for the Mekong to take such a gamble; risking the lives of millions of people, for very limited returns.

We understand that regional discussions, through the Prior Consultation process for the Don Sahong Dam will soon be coming to a close, and we urge Mekong leaders to take urgent action to prioritize the sustainable future of the Mekong River's vital resources.

We call on Mekong leaders to immediately take action to protect the Mekong River by not allowing the Don Sahong Dam project to proceed, and instead promoting more sustainable energy options.

Sincerely,