Several experts have raised concerns over the Pak Beng Hydropower Project in Laos and other 10 hydro dams that will be built on the Mekong River which could badly affect Vietnam.
The concerns were raised at the conference about the impact of Pak Beng on the Mekong River held by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment and the Vietnam National Mekong Committee in Can Tho City on May 12.
Chinese investor Datang Overseas Investment signed a memorandum with Lao government to construct the Pak Beng project in 2007. Pak Beng is the third of 11 mainstream dams planned on the Mekong River in Laos.
Erosion in the Mekong Delta
Nguyen Van Trong, former head of the Research Institute for Aquaculture 2, said the designed route and flow rate for fish was too low, only 14.4 cubic metres per second. In addition, the entrance is too far to attract the fish. “Fish mostly won’t go downstream as the reservoir is 97km long,” he said.
Nguyen Anh Duc, director of Mekong Development Assistance Centre, warned that saltwater intrusion in Tien and Hau rivers will increase by 2.8 to 3.8km. If Pak Beng, Xayabury and Don Sahong hydropower plants all work at the same time then the impact on the towns of Tan Chau and Chau Doc in An Giang Province is huge during the dry season.
90% amount of mud and alluvial soil will be trapped upstream and Tan Chau and Chau Doc towns will lose more than 65% of mud and sand. As the alluvial soil will be kept in the upstream, the threats of erosion downstream will also increase.
Other experts expressed worry that the project used out-dated data and had not used international standards. The assessment report didn’t mention Chinese plants on the Mekong. The Mekong Delta in Vietnam is facing erosion partly due to the lack of sediment, if more hydropower plants are built, the delta will be lost in the next two or three decades.
Vu Ngoc Long from the Southern Institute of Ecology said impacts on other countries and 60 million lives were not mentioned in the assessment report.
Many experts said Vietnam National Mekong Committee should ask Laos to halt the project for better assessment reports. However, Tran Hong Ha, Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, said the proposal was difficult and unlikely to be accepted. Laos already issued the environmental licence and started construction. They can only work to minimise the impact.