Prime Minister Hun Sen on Monday claimed that there had been no downstream impact on fish stocks as a result of the construction of the Don Sahong hydropower dam in Laos.
The construction of the 260-MW dam began in January 2016, raising concerns among environmentalists over possible impacts on fish migration.
The NGO International Rivers said the dam would block and threaten “vital subsistence and commercial fisheries in the Lower Mekong Basin.”
But during a speech on Monday Hun Sen rejected the concerns. “Even the Laos Don Sahong dam, it will not kill the fish,” he said.
“I visited [the dam]. It does not have any impacts,” he said. “But we will reduce impacts to a minimum if there are any.”
Hun Sen also claimed, without providing evidence, that there was no evidence there would be impacts on fisheries from the Lower Sesan II dam, which is being readied to go into operation in Cambodia’s Stung Treng province.
“Do our country’s fish know how to climb trees? Do they know how to climb mountains?” Hun Sen asked, mocking research that suggests the Lower Sesan II will affect 70 percent of fish in Cambodia’s Mekong Basin.
“Construction of the dam has been justified on the basis of mitigation measures that developers claim will allow the movement of migratory fish up and downstream. However, these measures have not been adequately tested and scientists are highly critical about their ability to enable continued fish migration on the scale prior to development of the dam,” International Rivers has reported.
Laos is building a series of dams on the Lower Mekong, much to the dismay of downstream communities and environmental groups.
Daovong Phonekeo, permanent secretary of Laos’ Ministry of Energy, told VOA that the proper environmental impact assessments had been carried out ahead of the dams’ approval.
But Tek Vannara, executive director of the NGO Forum, said the consequences of Laos and Cambodia’s dam-building would be that the “Mekong will not be a river of well-being and prosperity anymore. It will become the river of dams and controversies.”