August 23, 2002
Mr. Rajat Nag
Director General, Mekong Department
Asian Development Bank
PO Box 789 0980
Fax: 632 636 2444
Dear Mr. Nag,
I am writing with regard to the Upper Mekong Navigation Improvement Project. As you are likely aware, the project is a source of concern and tension for governments and affected people all along the Mekong.
On July 31, the Thai government suspended blasting of rapids in its navigable section of the Mekong due to concern over the project's impact on the Thai-Lao border. Officials in Cambodia and Vietnam have raised concerns that blasting of reefs upstream could change the flow of water into their countries, posing problems for farming and other activities. Somphong Mongkhonvilay, Lao Minister to the Prime Minister's Office, called for a cautious approach and further study of the project. The Mekong River Commission has stressed the importance of fully considering how the project will affect people's livelihoods and commissioned a review of the project's EIA. The review found that the EIA was "not up to international standards."
NGOs and local villagers in Thailand are also worried that the project will have wide-ranging impacts on people's livelihoods and the delicate Mekong River ecosystem. These concerns are documented in a petition submitted to the Thai government on July 31 (see enclosed). The petition, endorsed by 76 organizations from 25 countries, calls for a halt to the project until comprehensive environmental and social impact assessments are conducted.
We realize that the ADB is not currently providing financial support for the navigation project. However, the ADB is a leading promoter and facilitator of the Greater Mekong Subregion initiative (GMS) as a comprehensive development framework for the region. Given the fact that the navigation project is considered a high-priority GMS transport sector initiative, the ADB should take steps to ensure that GMS governments' concerns over the project's social and environmental impacts are addressed. We call on the ADB to urge the affected governments to suspend the project until comprehensive environmental and social impact assessments are conducted.
In an April 28, 2002 letter to IRN concerning the navigation project, Mr. C.R. Rajendran of the ADB's Mekong Department stated that "We share your concern about the need to ensure that activities on the river should be undertaken with utmost care to preserve the resource and protect the livelihoods of those who are dependent on it." We urge the ADB to put its words into action by urging a halt to the navigation project until further studies are completed.
Southeast Asia Campaigner
Encl: Petition Submitted to Thai Deputy Prime Minister Gen. Chavalit Yongchaiyudh on July 31, 2002
Cc: Mr. Tadao Chino, President, ADB
Mr. Bindu Lohani, Secretary, ADB
Mr. Akira Seki, Director General, Regional and Sustainable Development Department, ADB
Mr. C. R. Rajendran, Director, Agriculture, Environment and Natural Resources Division, Mekong Department, ADB ADB Executive Directors