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For Immediate Release: Contact: Will Jenkins/Allison Jaslow 202-224-4024
April 14, 2011
Senator Webb: Construction of Xayaburi Dam in Laos could have devastating consequences for Southeast Asia
Washington, DCSenator Jim Webb (D-VA), chair of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations Subcommittee on East Asian and Pacific Affairs, today issued the following statement regarding proposed construction in Laos of the Xayaburi Dam on the Mekong River, which also flows through China, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam:
Reports are very troubling that the government of Laos may move forward with the construction of the Xayaburi Dam following next weeks meeting of Mekong River Commission members. This is a dangerously harmful precedent as it relates to the environmental health of Southeast Asia. Numerous scientific studies have concluded that construction of the Xayaburi Dam and other proposed mainstream dams will have devastating environmental, economic, and social consequences for the entire Mekong sub-region.
The United States and the global community have a strategic interest in preserving the health and well-being of the more than 60 million people who depend on the Mekong River. All countries along the Mekong River should respect the riparian water rights of other river basin countries and take into account any objection or concern regarding construction. To avoid irreversible damage to the region, I believe it would be prudent to delay the construction of any mainstream dam along the river, including those along the Upper Mekong River, until adequate planning and multilateral coordination can be guaranteed. Absent this collaborative approach, the stability of Southeast Asia is at risk.
I am also asking the U.S. State Department to strengthen its engagement with the Lower Mekong Initiative and invigorate its efforts to support sustainable infrastructure and water security in Southeast Asia.
As subcommittee chairman, Senator Webb has traveled to all of the countries in mainland Southeast Asia and examined water use practices and plans for the Mekong Rivers development. He has engaged numerous U.S. and regional diplomats, policymakers, environmental engineers, and academics who conveyed the importance of the Mekong River to Southeast Asias economic and social development and the risks associated with disrupting the rivers ecological balance. In an October 2010 letter, Senator Webb urged Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to take steps to strengthen cooperation and to promote the sustainable development of mainstream hydropower dams on the Mekong River.
The text of that letter is available here: http://webb.senate.gov/newsroom/pressreleases/04-14-2011-02.cfm