Photo by Zac
Last Thursday saw members of CRDT staff, tourists, VSO volunteers and a police escort float along a 20km stretch of the Mekong that would be devastated if a planned programme of dam building in Laos and Cambodia goes ahead. The event was organised to coincide with a meeting of the Mekong River Commission (MRC) who hold the power to approve the damming plans, in particular the first of many in Xayaburi in Laos. There was some coverage of the event before and afterwards in the Phnom Penh Post, one of Cambodia's two English language dailies.
The result of the meeting was to postpone the decision until late April when the MRC participant countries (Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam) must reach a final verdict on the dam at Xayaburi. The outcome of this meeting clearly hangs in the balance as consensus could not be reached last week.
Because of their experience with damming and it's impact on salination and unpredictable rises in water levels downstream, it is believed that Vietnam are opposed to further damming of the Mekong. Thailand is thought to be in favour of the dam at Xayaburi as it is largely Thai investment being used to build it and Thailand will receive most of the electricity produced. Laos don't have a powerful voice at the discussions of the MRC and so many believe that Cambodia could hold the crucial deciding vote. It is still to be found out whether the influence of either of its more powerful neighbours will swing Cambodia's vote or if the decision will be taken on the grounds of what is best for Cambodia's people who rely so heavily on the river for fish and soil nutrients carried by its waters.
If you are interested in finding out more about the issues then some good resources are available here and there is a petition against the dams here.