Reconsider the Lower Sesan 2 Dam

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Protest against the Lower Sesan Dam 2. On February 28, 2012, in honor of the Day of Action for Rivers, over 500 mainly ethnic minority villagers from Stung Treng and Ratanak Kiri provinces in northeastern Cambodia peacefully gathered to protest the construction of Lower Sesan 2 DamPhoto: International Rivers
Protest against the Lower Sesan Dam 2. On February 28, 2012, in honor of the Day of Action for Rivers, over 500 mainly ethnic minority villagers from Stung Treng and Ratanak Kiri provinces in northeastern Cambodia peacefully gathered to protest the construction of Lower Sesan 2 DamPhoto: International Rivers

H.E. 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. Yingluck Shinawatra,
The Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Thailand

H.E. Li Keqiang
The Premier of the People’s Republic of China

6 February 2014

Urgent Request to Reconsider the Lower Sesan 2 Dam in Cambodia

Dear Excellencies,

We, the members of the Save the Mekong Coalition, are extremely concerned by the plans of the Royal Government of the Kingdom of Cambodia to construct the Lower Sesan 2 Dam on the Sesan River in Stung Treng Province, Cambodia. The Lower Sesan 2 Dam, if built as proposed, is predicted to cause devastating impacts across the entire Mekong River Basin. It will threaten the food supply and health of hundreds of thousands of people in the Lower Mekong Basin who rely on the river system for their livelihoods and survival, with the potential to exacerbate conflict and jeopardize security and stability in the region.

The Sesan River is vital to the integrity of the Mekong River system. According to recent scientific analysis, the Lower Sesan 2 Dam is predicted to cause a 9.3% reduction in fish biomass across the Mekong River Basin, an estimated regional loss of 200,000 tons of fish per year The dam will also contribute to changing hydrological flows in the Mekong River and reduce sediment by approximately 6-8 percent.[2] This will reduce nutrient levels essential to agriculture and other vegetation in Cambodia’s floodplains and Vietnam’s Mekong Delta. The loss of sediment is also predicted to reduce the stability of river channels and the Delta coastline, escalate erosion and reduce the overall productivity of the Mekong floodplains and Tonle Sap Lake.

The projected environmental and social impacts from the Lower Sesan 2 Dam are therefore severe and likely to be felt far beyond the reservoir area. Impacts will extend upstream along the Sesan River and downstream along the Sesan and Sekong Rivers and the Mekong River mainstream[3] as far as the Tonle Sap Lake, the Mekong Delta in Vietnam and upstream in Laos and Thailand.[4] Despite this, the environmental impact assessment made available by the project developers and the Royal Government of Cambodia is restricted to a limited area around the dam site. There is no indication that a transboundary impact study has been conducted to date. Further studies are urgently needed in order to fully appreciate the environmental and social impacts of the project.

Given the predicted impacts of the project, the decision to build the Lower Sesan 2 Dam is an issue of significant regional concern. The Save the Mekong Coalition recalls the issues raised in the Joint Development Partner Statement issued during the MRC Informal Donor Meeting in Phnom Penh on 28 June 2013, which expressed concern over the «potentially detrimental regional effects of the Lower Sesan 2 Dam in its current design», including on fish migration, sediment flow and the resettlement of local communities. In their statement, the Development Partners highlighted the project as a regional issue by urging the Royal Government of Cambodia to submit the project to the Prior Consultation procedure of the 1995 Mekong Agreement’s Procedures for Notification, Prior Consultation and Agreement.

The Save the Mekong Coalition believes that the Lower Sesan 2 Dam, in its current design and location, must be reconsidered, due to the immense harm the project poses to the Mekong River Basin’s fisheries, sedimentation and other natural resources and the livelihoods and food security of hundreds of thousands of people in Cambodia and neighboring countries.

We call on the Royal Government of Cambodia to halt all construction of the Lower Sesan 2 Dam until an adequate assessment of all likely impacts of the project has been conducted, including a transboundary environmental impact assessment. We demand that any impact assessment process fully engage the rights of affected communities, including those in neighbouring countries, to access to information, meaningful consultation and participation in decision-making with respect to hydropower development on the Sesan River, in accordance with international standards and the requirements of national laws.

Building large-scale hydropower projects in the Mekong River Basin risks sacrificing Mother Nature and the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of local people in the name of ‘development.’ Decisions on hydropower development are therefore not exclusively the responsibility of states. The Mekong country governments must recognize the rights of the people of the Mekong River Basin as holding an equal stake in all such decisions.

We, the Save the Mekong Coalition, implore the Royal Government of Cambodia to urgently reconsider the Lower Sesan 2 Dam. We urge the government to immediately halt construction activities and to conduct a transboundary environmental impact assessment to adequately study all of impacts of the project.

We urge the Governments of Laos, Vietnam and Thailand to recognize the Lower Sesan 2 Dam as an issue of regional importance. Rather than risk harm to our shared river, we encourage the Royal Government of Cambodia to study alternative options for electricity generation in the decision-making process, in consultation with stakeholders and communities.

Yours respectfully,

Members of the Save the Mekong Coalition:

3S Rivers Protection Network
BothENDS, The Netherlands
Community Resources Centre of Thailand
EarthRights International
GreenID
International Rivers
Mekong Watch
Fivas