Ministry of Energy and Mines

Department of Energy Business

The Singapore-based international TV news network Channel NewsAsia took an in-depth look at the issues swirling around plans to build the Don Sahong dam in southern Laos. The news show “Between the Lines” was broadcast on Channel NewsAsia on Thursday night, and again on Friday morning and afternoon.

 Presenter Teymoor Nabili hosted a lively discussion on Don Sahong featuring anti-dam spokesperson Ame Trandem, Australian political science professor Carl Thayer, and Viraphonh Viravong, Lao Deputy Minister of Energy and Mines. The guests were interviewed via Skype.


Ms Trandem, Southeast Asia Programme Director of International Rivers, repeated the call for Laos to study all potential impacts of hydropower development for 10 years before building any Mekong dams. She reiterated activists' claim that the Don Sahong dam would threaten the livelihood of millions of people who live along the Mekong River and depend on the river for fish and crops.

Dr Thayer, a professor emeritus of the University of New South Wales, said downstream countries are agitating for the Lao PDR to pay greater attention to transboundary environmental and legal issues. The issue now before the Mekong River Commission (MRC) could be elevated to the governmental level, he said.

Mr Viraphonh said that the Don Sahong project is a relatively small run-of-river dam that does not store water. International experts, including expert teams from MRC, agree that the project will have no significant impact on water flow, water quality or sediment content downstream, he said.

“Anti-dam activists are really exaggerating the dangers, saying food security is threatened and there will be salt water intrusion a thousand kilometres away.” The environmental threats facing Cambodia's Tonle Sap and Vietnam's Mekong Delta have nothing to do with the Don Sahong dam or any other hydropower development in Laos, he said.

“They say that Laos should pursue different energy alternatives, but we are convinced that hydropower is the best alternative for us. It is clean, renewable energy that is non-polluting and a non-consumptive use of water. With hydropower we can meet the internationally agreed-upon aspects of sustainable development: technical, environmental, economical and social. The right choice for Laos is also the best choice for the people of the region and the world.”




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