Say No to Don Sahong Dam

Cambodian communities rally against controversial dam that could doom Mekong Irrawaddy dolphins

protest on boat

Cambodian communities rally against controversial dam that could doom Mekong Irrawaddy dolphins

Buddhist monks, community mobilizers, youth and various organizations rallied together against a backdrop of boats bearing banners asking Mega First to stop the controversial Don Sahong dam on the Mekong River on September 11, 2014.

It was a strong public showing of widespread opposition to a dam could herald the demise of important fisheries and critically endangered Mekong dolphins.

“More than a quarter of a million people around the world are sending a strong and clear message to Mega First. Stop Don Sahong dam or risk the dubious honour of precipitating the extinction of a species,” said Chhith Sam Ath, WWF’s Country Director. “Don Sahong dam is a dangerous experiment and Mega First is gambling with the livelihoods of millions.”

WWF analysis found that the Environmental Impact Assessment conducted by Mega First to be flawed and incomplete.

The dam in southern Laos will be less than a mile upstream of the dolphins' core habitat. Around 85 dolphins are now restricted to a stretch of the Mekong River between southern Laos and north-east Cambodia. The dam builders intend to excavate millions of tonnes of rock using explosives, creating strong sound waves that could potentially kill dolphins which have highly sensitive hearing structures. Increased boat traffic, changes in water quality and habitat degradation represent other risks.

The dam will block the only channel available for dry-season fish migration. It puts at risk the world's most productive inland fisheries and the livelihoods of 60 million people living in the Lower Mekong Basin.

“Without fish and dolphins, our livelihoods will be destroyed,” said An Hou, Chief of Community Fishery Network in Sambor district of Kratie province in Cambodia. “We are helpless and we do not know what to do if the dam goes ahead. We ask Mega First’s Executive Chairman, Mr Goh, to stop the dam construction and rethink this project, and consider carefully the lives of millions of people who depend on the Mekong River.”

Since May, concerned Cambodians have added their name to a WWF public petition opposing Don Sahong dam. The local action, supported by members of the River Coalition in Cambodia (RCC) under the facilitation of the NGO Forum on Cambodia (NGOF), was bolstered by a global online petition signed by over 255,000 activists from more than 200 countries.

In June, the Lao Government announced its decision to have the Don Sahong dam undergo the Mekong River Commission's consultation process. The process requires Laos to hold inter-governmental consultations before proceeding with the dam, and conduct and share studies on the project’s environmental and social impacts. The process will take at least six months to complete.

WWF is calling for an immediate halt to any further development of the dam until the developers have addressed significant gaps identified in the project documents, such as the feasibility studies and the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). Additionally, an independent and sound assessment of the project against more sustainable alternatives must be conducted.