Chief Executive Officer of the Mekong River Commission Secretariat; Donors of the MRC

This letter was sent to the Chief Executive Officer of the Mekong River Commission Secretariat, Vientiane, Lao PDR and to the Donor institutions currently supporting the Mekong River Commission on 12 November 2007 in advance of the MRC's annual governance meetings (Dialogue Meeting, Donor Consultative Group Meeting, and MRC Council Meeting) in Siem Reap, Cambodia on 14-17 November 2007. The letter was originally endorsed by 201 organisations and individuals from 30 countries, with unprecedented support from civil society groups from Mekong countries.

This action comes in response to news of the revival of six proposals to dam the Lower Mekong River. Civil society groups are demanding the MRC fulfil its obligation to protect the Mekong, in light of compelling scientific evidence that warns of the disastrous consequences of damming the lower Mekong.

We created this online petition in order to provide a space for additional individuals and organisations to show their support for these demands. For more information, follow-up and media articles, see Towards Ecological Recovery and Regional Alliance.

12 November 2007

To: Chief Executive Officer of the Mekong River
Commission Secretariat, Vientiane, Lao PDR

Donor institutions currently supporting the
Mekong River Commission

Re: MRC and hydropower dams on the lower
Mekong mainstream

We, the undersigned citizens groups, are writing to express our concerns about the revival of plans to build dams on the lower Mekong, and the failure of the international Mekong River Commission to uphold the 1995 Mekong Agreement at this critical juncture.

Please find below our assessment of the situation and our recommendations for action.

We are aware that the governments of Lao PDR, Cambodia and Thailand have granted permission to Thai, Malaysian and Chinese companies, to conduct feasibility studies for up to six large hydro dams on the lower Mekong. These same six sites – four in Laos, one in Cambodia and one on the Thai-Laos border – were recommended by Canadian and French consultants in a report published by the Mekong Secretariat in Bangkok in 1994. The plan did not move ahead at that time, however, not least because it was publicly condemned as too costly and environmentally damaging by a number of MRC donors, as well as fisheries biologists, academics, citizens groups, and dam-affected community leaders.

Since that time, the adverse (and typically unmitigatable) transboundary impacts of large hydro dams on fisheries and fishing-based livelihoods have become painfully evident to thousands of riparian communities throughout the Mekong basin. These impacts and the connectivity between the river’s seasonal patterns and fisheries productivity have been well documented by MRC scientists, hydro consultants, and many community organizations. Research published by the Mekong River Commission in 2004 identifies dams built for purposes of irrigation, hydroelectricity and flood control as “the overriding threat to the future of the Mekong’s fish and fisheries.” At the Mekong River Commission’s 6th Technical Symposium on Mekong Fisheries (2003), researchers concluded that “any dam on the Mekong mainstream ... could be disastrous for fisheries, but [the Sambor] site is the worst possible location.” If built, it would block a crucial passageway for fish migrating from Cambodia’s Tonle Sap into the Mekong’s deep pools where fish take refuge in the dry season.

Further upstream, Hou Sahong, the proposed site of Don Sahong dam in the Khone Falls area of southern Laos, is another vitally important channel for fish migrations, according to fishery biologists at the Phnom Penh-based WorldFish Center. Even a small percentage decline in Mekong and Tonle Sap fish yields would translate into significant economic losses for Cambodia, according to Cambodia’s National Mekong Committee, where the fishing industry accounts for roughly 12 percent of national GDP. As well, for thousands of rural communities living along the Mekong and around Tonle Sap, any decline in riparian fisheries directly threatens their food security and livelihoods.

Despite the serious ecological and economic implications of damming the lower Mekong, the Mekong River Commission has remained notably silent. We find this an extraordinary abdication of responsibility. Under Article 7 of the 1995 Mekong Agreement, the Commission is required “to make every effort to avoid, minimize and mitigate harmful effects that might occur to the environment, especially the water quantity and quality, the aquatic (eco-system) conditions, and ecological balance of the river system, from the development and use of the Mekong River Basin water resources.” Conceivably, the Mekong River Commission could advise riparian states against building dams on the mainstream based on the best available scientific knowledge about the river’s ecosystem.

In broader terms, the Commission has a mandate “to cooperate in all fields of sustainable development, utilization, management and conservation of the water and related resources of the Mekong River Basin including, but not limited to irrigation, hydro-power, navigation, flood control, fisheries, timber floating, recreation and tourism, in a manner to optimize the multiple-use and mutual benefits of all riparians.” In contrast, we have no confidence that studies conducted by the Thai, Malaysian and Chinese companies will seek to “optimize” multiple uses and benefits for all riparians.

The MRC mandate is based on a recognition that the Mekong is a vast international resource and therefore decisions affecting its use and management cannot be undertaken without due consideration of the countries sharing the river and its multiple uses and functions by diverse groups. Simply put, the Mekong is not the sole domain of any one riparian state or group.

To fulfill its obligations under the Agreement, the Mekong River Commission has the authority to conduct “assessments for the protection of the environment and maintenance of the ecological balance of the Mekong River Basin” (Article 24), insist on procedures of consultation among and within the member states, and evaluate proposed uses of the Mekong in terms of their impact on flow in the mainstream and the Tonle Sap (Article 6).

At the very least, the MRC should be providing some measure of professional oversight and technical assessment of the proposed dam projects, including an open and participatory review of the feasibility studies prepared by Thai, Malaysian and Chinese dam builders. The MRC can start by publicly releasing its fisheries evaluation of the proposed Don Sahong dam, which we understand has already been completed.

If the MRC does not act now to uphold the 1995 Agreement and defend the ecological integrity of the Mekong, the institution is a river authority in name only and does not deserve the tens of millions of dollars worth of grants and technical assistance that it receives from international donor agencies annually. As such, we are urging MRC donors to review and reconsider funding for the institution.


Flint Duxfield, Aid/Watch, Australia
Stephanie Long, Friends of the Earth Australia, Australia
Margie Law, Mekong Monitor Tasmania, Australia
Jessica Rosien , Oxfam Australia, Australia
Patrick Anderson, Rainforest Information Centre Australia

Winnie Overbeek, Alert Against the Green Desert Network, Brazil

Aung Ngyeh, Karenni Development and Research Group, Burma
Salo Lahu , National Development Organisation, Burma
Chan Dein, Mon Youth Progressive Organization, Burma
Oum Kham, Shan Sapawa and Environmental Organisation, Burma

Jan Cappelle, Proyecto Gato, Belgium

Grainne Ryder, Probe International, Canada

Meach Mean, 3S Rivers Protection Network, Rattanakiri, Cambodia
Aok Longdee, KABB, Battambang, Cambodia
Cheatlom Ang, Buddhism for a Progressive Society(BPS), Preah Vihear, Cambodia
Ham Kimkong, Cambodian Volunteer for Society (CVS), Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Thon Bunranin, Cambodian Commissioner for Development, Cambodia Organisation (CCD), Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Leang Ratanakvevy, Cambodian Commissioner for Development, Cambodia Organisation (CCD), Kampong Chhnang, Cambodia
Him Sokunthea, Cambodian Commissioner for Development Organisation (CCD), Kratie, Cambodia
Yang Saing Koma, Centre d’Etude et de Developpement Agricole Cambodgien (CEDAC), Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Bun Nath, Citizen, Battambang, Cambodia
Vann Piseth, Citizen, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Yous Pheary, Community Economic Development (CED), Kratie,Cambodia
Chim Cheun, Community Fishing Lot 13th region, Kampong Chhnang, Cambodia
Prak Samban, Community Fishing Lot 13th region, Kampong Chhnang, Cambodia
Doung Sothea, Community Fishing Lot 15th region, Cambodia
Khoun Cheng, Community Fishing Lot 15th region, Kampong Chhnang, Cambodia
Un Seeyan, Community Fishing Lot 15th region, Kampong Chhnang, Cambodia
Si Sokeun, Community Fishing Lot, Kampong Cham, Cambodia
Doung Khieng, Community Fishing Lot, Kampot, Cambodia
Kem Da, Community Fishing Lot, Kampot, Cambodia
Rim Musar, Community Fishing Lot, Prey Noup, Cambodia
Kong Chamreun, Community Fishing Lot, Takeo, Cambodia
Yeng Virek, Community Legal Education Center (CLEC), Cambodia
Sauth Sophorn, Conservation and Development on Cambodia (CD Cam), Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Tep Bunnarith, Culture and Environment Preservation Association (CEPA), Cambodia
Neang Penghor, Dai Ku Apiwat (DKA), Kampot, Cambodia
Tep Malen, East West Network Region, Banteaymeanchey, Cambodia
Mak Sithirith, Fishery Action Coalition Team (FACT), Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Long Sochet, Fishery Action Committee Team, Pursat, Cambodia
Dam Chanthy, Highland Association, Rattanakiri, Cambodia
Phan Sithan, Housing Rights Task Force, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Mean Someth, Human Resource and Natural Development Organisation of Cambodia (HRND), Siem Reap, Cambodia
Sao Vansey, Indigenous Community Support Organization (ICSO), Cambodia
Chhoun Borith, Khmer Youth and Social Development (KYSD), Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Nuth Machung, Kunathor, Battambang, Cambodia
Estela Estoria, Mekong River Basin Management (MRBM) Program, East Asia Regional Office, Oxfam America, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Eung Vanak, New Vision, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Sao Sokal, New Vision, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Chhith Sam Ath, NGO Forum on Cambodia, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Souy Tin, OPKC-CBO (Network), Preah Vihear, Cambodia
Uk Ngar, OPKC-CBO (Network), Preah Vihear, Cambodia
Boua Chanthou, Partnership for Development in Kampuchea (PADEK), Cambodia
Hor Sam-art, Peace Building Network, Battambang, Cambodia
Chheav Varee, Peace Building Network, Kampong Thom, Cambodia
Heang Han, Peace Building Network, Kampong Thom, Cambodia
Sieng Chouk, Peace Building Network, Mondulkiri, Cambodia
Seng Sokheng, Peace Building Network, Oddor Meanchey, Cambodia
Sok Rai, Peace Building Network, Oddor Meanchey, Cambodia
Sorn Saveun, Peace Building Network, Oddor Meanchey, Cambodia
Chhoung Sareun, Peace Building Network, Preah Vihear, Cambodia
Vong Veun, Peace Building Network, Preah Vihear, Cambodia
Khin Yeun, Peace Building Network, Rattanakiri, Cambodia
Sev Them, Peace Building Network, Rattanakiri, Cambodia
Sim Sien, Peace Building Network, Sandan, Kampong Thom, Cambodia
Soung Save, Rural Development and Community Natural Resources Management (RDCNRM), Kratie, Cambodia
Chim Vandeth, Sor Sor Troung (SST), Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Soum Samoun, Urban Poor Women Development (UPWD), Cambodia
Ek Vuthy, Yopec Coodinator, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Hou Ye, Citizen, Kunming, Yunnan province, China
Miao Yun, Freelance journalist, Kunming, Yunnan province, China
Ren Jingwen, Green Anhui, Anhui province, China
Jiang Lian, Green Camel Bell, Gansu province, China
Fang Minghe , Green Eyes China, Zhejiang province, China
Li Rong, Green Hainan, Hainan province, China
Mei Nianshu, Green Kunming, Yunnan province, China
Zhang Chun Shan, Lijiang Environmental Conservation Center, Yunnan, China
Wen Bo, Pacific Environment, Beijing, China
GE Yun, Xinjiang Conservation Fund, Beijing, China

Beute Hessellund Audersea, NOAH - Friends of the Earth Denmark

Taavi Nuum, Estonia Green Movement-FoE, Estonia

Natalia Bonilla, Accion Ecologica, Ecuador

Tove Selin, Finnish Asiatic Society, Finland
Minna Hakkarainen, Finnish Vietnamese Friendship Association, Finland
Niko Humalisto, New Wind, Finland
Anu Lounela, Siemenpuu Foundation, Finland

Sébastien Godinot, Friends of the Earth France

Klaus Schenck, Rettet den Regenwald e.V., Germany
Regine Richter, Urgewald, Germany
Heike Drillisch, World Economy, Ecology & Development e.V. (WEED), Germany
Chris Lang, World Rainforest Movement, Germany

Lambert Okrah, Institute of Cultural Affairs (ICA), Ghana

Sandra Moniaga, HuMa, Indonesia
Norman Jiwan, Sawit Watch, Indonesia
Farah Sofa, Indonesian Forum on the Environment (WALHI)-Friends of the Earth, Indonesia

Keiko Kushuhara, Fukuoka NGO Forum on Asian Development Bank (FNA), Japan
Shigeya Kihara , Globalization Watch Hiroshima (GWH), Japan
Yuki Tanabe, Japan Center for a Sustainable Environment and Society (JACSES), Japan
Junko Okura, Jubilee Kyushu on World Debt and Poverty, Japan
Satoru Matsumoto, Mekong Watch Japan
Yoko Fukawa, Pacific Asia Resource Center (PARC), Japan

Yong-un, Korea Federation for Environmental Movements/Friends of the Earth Korea
Kim Hye Kyung, Korea ODA Watch, Korea

Sombath Somphone, Citizen, Vientiane, Lao PDR
Sengphouxay Inthavikham, Citizen, Vientiane, Lao PDR
Namthipkesone Bouttasing, Citizen/student, Vientiane, Lao PDR
Somsy Manivanh, Citizen/student, Vientiane, Lao PDR

Mohd Nizam Mahshar, Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM), Malaysia

Sjef Langeveld, Both ENDS, Netherlands
Fiona Dove, Transnational Institute (TNI), Netherlands

Andrew Preston, Association for International Water Studies (FIVAS), Norway

Samuel Gamboa, The Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center-Kasama sa Kalikasan. LRC-KSK/Friends of the Earth Philippines
Hemantha Withanage, NGO Forum on ADB, Philippines

Sleh Rabi, PENGON, Palestine

Wally Menne, Timberwatch Coalition, South Africa

Christine Eberlein , Berne Declaration, Switzerland

Mae-Anne Llanza, Asia Pacific Forum on Women Law and Development, Chiang Mai, Thailand
Baramee Chairat, Assembly of the Poor, Bangkok, Thailand
Hannarong Yaowalert, Biodiversity Conservation of Siam, Bangkok, Thailand
Penchom Tang , Campaign for Alternative Industry (CAIN), Bangkok, Thailand
Arunwadee Hong-Udon, Center for Coordinator, Health promotion network, Mahasarakham, Thailand
Aganit Pongphai, Chee River Community Network, Khonkaen, Thailand
Niwat Roykeaw, Chiang Khong Conservation Group, Chiang Rai, Thailand
Prayad Jatupornpitakkul, Chiang Mai People Network, Chiang Mai, Thailand
Miti Yaprasit, Chiang Saen Conservation Group, Chiang Rai, Thailand
Aphatsorn Sombunwatthanakun, Citizen/student, Bangkok, Thailand
Maneerat Mitprasart, Citizen, Mahasarakham, Thailand
Pongpipat Mebenjamath , Community and Cultural Recovery Project,Mae Hong Son, Thailand
Jakkapong Tanawworrapong, Community Forestry Association, Surin, Thailand
Somchai Anurat, Community Forest Association, Surin, Thailand
Rojcharek Wattanapanich, Community Forest Support Group, Chiang Mai, Thailand
Sairung Thongplon, Confederation of Consumer Organisations Thailand, Bangkok, Thailand
Sabrina Gyorvary, EarthRights Mekong School, Chiang Mai, Thailand
Leardsak Khamkongsak , Ecology and Cultural Study Group, Udon Thani, Thailand
Bualai Sawaddee , Affected people, Lam Thakhong Project, Chaiyaphum, Thailand
Sayamol Kaiyoorawong, Environmental Awareness Building (EAB), Trang, Thailand
Surachai Trong-ngam, Environmental Litigation and Advocacy for the Wants (ENLAW), Bangkok, Thailand
Poonsombat Namla, Isan Community Institute, Surin, Thailand
Decharut Sukkumnoed, Faculty of Economic, Kasetsart University, Bangkok, Thailand
Kanokporn Rattanasuteerakul, Faculty of Humanities and Social Science, Mahasarakham University, Mahasarakham, Thailand
Theerada Namhai, Farmer Community School, Mahasarakham, Thailand
Shalmali Guttal, Focus on the Global South (FOCUS), Bangkok, Thailand
Nitirat Sapsomboon, Friends of the People (FOP), Bangkok, Thailand
Pim Koetsawang, Friends Without Borders, Chiang Mai, Thailand
Kannikar Kijtiwatchakul, FTA Watch, Bangkok, Thailand
Tara Buakamsri, Greenpeace, Southeast Asia, Bangkok, Thailand
Suebswasd Snidvongs, Hak Chiang Mai Alliances, Chiang Mai, Thailand
Sombat Nonsang, Hak Mae Mun, Srisakhet, Thailand
Suvadee Thanubamrungsaen, Hill Area and Community Development Foundation, Chiang Rai, Thailand
Daniel Aguirre, Human Rights for Change International, Chiang Mai, Thailand
Nang Siphoung, , Images Asia Environment Desk, Chiang Mai, Thailand
Sakorn Sisai , Lam Chiang Tha Conservation Group, Chaiyaphum, Thailand
Wichian Srichannon, Lam Paniang Recovery and Conservation Group, Chaiyaphum, Thailand
Sumat Phulaiyao, Living River Siam - SEARIN, Chiang Mai, Thailand
Trakarnchai Thummanuwong, Local Knowledge Development Association, Lampun, Thailand
Khematasn Palprem , Local Knowledge Education Project for Community Resources Management/Institute for Community Rights – ICR, Chiang Mai, Thailand
Prayong Atthachack, Loei Fund for Nature Conservation and Sustainable Development, Loei, Thailand
Somkiat Khunchiangsa , Mekong-Lanna Natural Resources Conservation Network, Chiang Rai, Thailand
Kritipong Jupoh, Minorities Development Association, Chiang Rai, Thailand
Sodsai Srangsok, Mun River Communities Organisations Network, Ubon Rachathani, Thailand
Sanan Chusakul , Mun River Wetland Recovery Project, Surin, Thailand
Sathaporn Somsak , Natural Resources and Sustainable Agriculture Network, Nan, Thailand
Pa Kongtham , Network for Mun River Flooded Forest Conservation, Ubon Rachathani, Thailand,
Ruangdetch Posri, Northeastern Alternative Agriculture Network, Mahasarakham, Thailand
Supadee Wanaprapavetch, Northeastern Information Centre on Human Rights and Peace, Thailand
Jakkapong Thanaworapong, Northeastern Natural Resources and Environmental Network, Mahasarakham, Thailand
Suwit Kulapwong, Northeastern Network on Salinity and Mining Study, Udon Thani, Thailand
Jon Ungpakorn, NGO Coordinating Committee on Development (NGO-COD), Bangkok, Thailand
Wipattanchai Phimhim, Northeastern NGOs Coordinating Committee on Development (Northeastern NGO-COD), Khon Kaen, Thailand
Nittaya Inyavilert, Northern NGOs Coordinating Committee on Development (Northern NGO-COD), Chiang Mai, Thailand
Taitat Paipilai, Northern NGOs Coalition on AIDS, Chiang Mai, Thailand
Kanokwan Ukockit, Northern Organic Standard Association, Chiang Mai, Thailand
Prayong Doklumyai, Northern Peasants Federation, Chiang Mai, Thailand
Decho Chaitap, Northern Sustainable Development Foundation, Chiang Mai, Thailand
Supaporn Thinwattanakul, Phayao Development Foundation, Phayao, Thailand
Pianporn Deetes, Rivers Watch East and Southeast Asia (RWESA), Chiang Mai, Thailand
Den Nipat, Songkram River Conservation Group, Sakonnakorn, Thailand
Tanat Dokbua, Student Network for Mekong Studies, Ubon Rachathani University, Ubon Rachathani, Thailand
Ubon Boonmak , Surin Local Information Center, Surin, Thailand
Nawarat Daoruang, Udon Thani Environment Conservation Club, Udon Thani, Thailand
Chuenchom Greacen, Palang Thai, Bangkok, Thailand
Bunyeun Kongpetsak , Salween Watershed Development and Recovery Association, Mae Hong Son, Thailand
Tongphun Mahawongsanan, Samun and Sanien Watershed Conservation Network, Nan, Thailand
Panapat Jundittawong, Student Club for Social Justice (SVS), Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand
Chinnaraj Bootseephumi, Sustainable ISAN Center Faculty of Liberal Arts, Ubon Ratchathani University, Ubon Rachathani, Thailand
Chartchai Thammo, Takonyom Youth Group for River, Prae, Thailand
Somkid Mahissaya, Thai Volunteer Service (TVS), Bangkok, Thailand
Premrudee Daoroung, Towards Ecological Recovery and Regional Alliance, (TERRA), Bangkok, Thailand
Nikom Puttha, Upper Ping Watershed Development Project, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Ricardo Carrere, World Rainforest Movement (WRM), Uruguay

Saskia Ozinga, Forests and the European Union Resource Network (FERN), UK
Joseph Zacune, Friends of the Earth UK
Larry Lohmann, The Corner House, UK
Vicky Cann, World Development Movement (WDM), UK

Bruce Jenkins, Bank Information Center (BIC), USA
Scot Quaranda, Dogwood Alliance, USA
Jeremy Mak, Educational Network for Global and Grassroots Exchange, USA
Orin Langelle, Global Justice Ecology Project, USA
Carl Middleton, International Rivers, USA

Nguyen Duc Anh, Citizen/Student, Cantho, Vietnam
Nguyen T. Phuong, Citizen/Student, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

AND the Undersigned

The MRC and hydropower dams on the lower Mekong mainstream petition to Chief Executive Officer of the Mekong River Commission Secretariat; Donors of the MRC was written by Foundation for Ecological Recovery and is in the category Environment at GoPetition.