Vietnam held its first national preliminary consultation seminar in Can Tho on September 25 to assess the impact of the construction of the Don Sahong hydropower plant on the Mekong River in Laos.
Speaking at the seminar, Nguyen Thanh Hai, head of the Office of the Southwest Steering Committee, said the hydropower plant would have a negative impact on the Mekong River, especially fish migration routes along the mainstream of the river.
The members of the International Mekong River Commission and members from Asian countries were evaluating the construction of the dam to ensure that it would improve the environment and enhance development, he added.
Le Duc Trung, head of the Office of Mekong River Commission, said the seminar aimed to report on objective scientific research on the Don Sahong hydropower dam construction, especially its impact on fisheries, water, sediment and people's livelihoods in the region.
After receiving reports from the Secretariat, the International Mekong River Commission Cooperation Committee, and the Vietnam Mekong River Commission Cooperation Committee, Vietnam plans to organise further consultation seminars for scientists and localities, particularly those in Mekong Delta provinces, according to Trung.
Also speaking at the event, Nguyen Huu Thien, an independent expert, said the Mekong River was one of the world's greatest rivers with essential resources for the region, maintaining the livelihoods of millions of people.
Thus, the decision on hydropower development on the Mekong River mainstream must be based on serious research and proven technologies, as well as consultation with affected governments and communities, he added.
However, most of the reports and analysis about the environmental impact of the project were insufficient and incomplete, he said, adding that the risk of the impact was high. The measures to mitigate the impact have not been proven in an environment with such biodiversity like the Mekong River, Thien noted.
According to research from the Vietnam Mekong River Commission, the hydropower projects on the mainstream Mekong River have affected the quantity and quality of water, sediment, navigation, agriculture, biodiversity, fisheries and economy in the Mekong Delta.
Speakers also discussed challenges facing the Mekong Cooperation projects, and solutions for sustainable development as well as quality of research work in the region.
In June, Laos announced its decision to have the Don Sahong project undergo a Mekong River Commission consultation process.
The process requires Laos to hold an intergovernmental consultation before proceeding with the dam and conduct and share studies on the project's environmental and social impact. The process will take at least six months to complete.
With a designed capacity of 260 MW, the Don Sahong hydropower plant is expected to be built on Dong Sahong River, a mainstream branch of the Mekong River, which is around three kilometres from the Cambodian border and 420 kilometres from Vietnam's border.