Consultants on Lao Mekong dam project fall short
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Any consultants wishing to work on the controversial Xayaburi Dam should use the industry’s standard “best practice”, says Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF).

The Mekong River, downstream of the proposed Xayaburi dam site

WWF made an appeal to the Mekong River Commission, after the project was postponed because of mounting criticism about the project\'s environmental impacts.

“Putting it frankly, the key documentation prepared by consultants for the promoters of this dam has been nowhere near international standards and it reflects very poorly on the consultants involved,” said Dr Jian-hua Meng, WWF International Sustainable Hydropower Specialist.

There have also been complaints from Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam that the dam could negatively impact food supply and communities in areas far downstream from the dam.

Recently the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and WWF participated in a review called the Xayaburi Environment Impact Assessment. The results of the study showed that environmental impact assessments have “not meet the international standards for Environmental Impact Assessments”.

The environmental impact assessments made so far have not taken into consideration the affects of the dam for any section of the river but only one third of the project’s zone.

The review also finds that the proposed fish passes in the dam are inadequate, and would be extremely challenging for fish to use, even for the strongest swimming fish.

The WWF did not hesitate to point fingers, naming the Swiss engineering company, Colenco. According to the NGO, Colenco did not live up to the standards that would be acceptable in their home country of Switzerland. "The standard of work done by Colenco for the Xayaburi proposal is highly unlikely to be acceptable practice in the company’s home country of Switzerland and is a poor fit with the company\'s stated ethic of environmental and social responsibility,” said Dr Meng.

Comments from Viraphonh Viravong, Director General of the Laos Department of Electricity, to the effect that the dam project will be put on hold until an international consulting review was welcomed by WWF. However they are now looking to the consultants for an adequate assessment, which would live up to international standards.

WWF has been advocating a 10-year moratorium on lower Mekong mainstream dams until there is enough information to assess their impacts.