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News from Manna Gum

The Mekong River just downstream of the site for the proposed Xayaburi Dam. Photo: Pianporn Deetes/International Rivers

2011 has begun with a flurry of activity on the Mekong front. As mentioned in our January letter, the first of the proposed Mekong mainstream dams - the Xayaburi Dam in Laos - is at a critical phase in the decision-making process. The project is currently being reviewed by the Mekong River Commission, which will provide recommendations to the Government of Laos as to whether the dam should be built or not. This review process is being funded by the Australian aid program.

As many Mekong watchers had feared, the public consultation element of the review was a sham - no consultation was conducted in Laos, the key project documentation (such as the Environmental Impact Statement) was not made public, and few people got to participate.

Manna Gum, working closely with Oxfam, has coordinated two NGO sign-on letters to Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd since January, asking him to do his utmost to ensure the Australian-funded review process is fair and transparent. To its credit, the Australian Government has responded by taking a strong position on the need for good process. Thank you to all those who wrote to Mr Rudd at this time.

Nevertheless, the Xayaburi project, and the livelihoods of millions, still hangs in the balance. A final recommendation will be handed down on April 22, and then the Government of Laos will decide whether it will proceed or not. You can follow developments on the Manna Gum website here.

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