Question: What is your reaction to Laos’ plan to begin construction on a dam on the lower Mekong River?
Answer: We understand that the Lao People’s Democratic Republic has announced its intention to officially begin construction of the Xayaburi dam on the main stem of the Mekong River. The United States recognizes the important role that dams can play in managing water resources to advance economic growth. At the same time, our own experience has made us acutely aware of the economic, social and environmental impacts that large infrastructure can have over the long-term. The extent and severity of impacts from the Xayaburi dam on an ecosystem that provides food security and livelihoods for millions are still unknown.
While these are sovereign development decisions, we are concerned that construction is proceeding before impact studies have been completed. We continue to believe that the Mekong River Commission (MRC) can be a useful platform to provide access to the best science and facilitate consultation with all stakeholders. We also understand that the members of the MRC have not reached consensus on whether the project should proceed.
The United States values its long-standing partnership with the MRC and its member nations. We have a strong interest in the sustainable management of the Mekong River, and we view our robust engagement as a sign of our strong commitment toward a lasting and positive relationship with the region.
We hope that the government of Laos will uphold its pledge to work with its neighbors in addressing remaining questions regarding Xayaburi. We encourage the MRC countries to continue to work together to realize their shared vision of an economically prosperous, socially just and environmentally sound Mekong River basin.