Story | 27 Sep, 2021

Viet Nam should save the Sekong – for its own benefit

Covid travel restrictions mean that for the past 18 months or so there have been fewer eyes and ears reporting on environmental conditions in the region. This may explain why we failed to spot that the state-owned construction company Song Da 6 has started work on the Sekong A (also known as the Sekong 1) dam in Lao PDR.

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Photo: Sekong river in Stung Treng, Cambodia © Center for People and Nature

If built, this dam, which is on the mainstream of the Sekong River, will disconnect almost all the entire river from the Mekong River, thereby preventing fish from migrating upstream to spawn. The Sekong is the last large free-flowing tributary of the Mekong and the Sekong A dam would directly threaten regional fish stocks and food security:

At the same time, the Sekong A dam, which only generates 86 MW, would make a tiny contribution to regional power supply, yet it has one of the highest numbers of resettled people among the Sekong River hydropower projects.

An assessment by the International Finance Corp., the private sector arm of the World Bank, presented several different pathways to hydropower development in the Sekong, including keeping the mainstream of the Sekong free-flowing. Almost the same amount of power could be generated by tributary dams (combined with floating solar) with far fewer negative impacts.

Crucially, if Song Da 6 builds the Sekong A dam, Viet Nam’s credibility as a regional leader on the sustainable development of the Mekong River and its major tributaries would be undermined. It would be much harder for Viet Nam to secure regional and international support to protect the Mekong Delta from the combined effects of climate change and upstream hydropower development, which would in turn impede implementation of Resolution 120 on sustainable and climate-resilient development of the delta.

We conclude that the proposed Sekong A dam would do serious social and economic damage to downstream countries. For Viet Nam, the dam would also be politically damaging. Simply put, the Sekong A is a very bad deal for Viet Nam, a country with so much to be proud of.

For these reasons, we urge the Communist Party and Government of the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam to intervene to terminate Song Da 6’s involvement in the Sekong A dam. We stand ready to support any studies needed to design an energy planning and investment strategy that makes optimal use of the region’s natural resources for peace and prosperity.