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Cambodia to call for moratorium on Laos' dam during MRC summit

PHNOM PENH, April 4 (Xinhua) -- Cambodia will probably call for a moratorium on the Laos' 260-megawatt Don Sahong dam development project on the lower Mekong River during the second Summit of the Mekong River Commission (MRC), to be held on April 4 and 5 in Ho Chi Minh City of Vietnam, a senior official said Friday.

"I may raise this issue at the summit because the summit will focus on water, energy and food security in the context of climate change for the Mekong Basin," Water Resources Minister Lim Kean Hor, chairman of Cambodia National Mekong Committee, told reporters at Phnom Penh International Airport before accompanying Prime Minister Hun Sen to attend the summit.

"Not only Cambodia, but also Vietnam and Thailand, have made official requests to Laos to suspend that dam project and we have also asked Laos to provide the Environment Impact Assessment to all parties to consider and make decision," he said.

The minister said all MRC countries must comply with the Mekong Agreement 1995, which requires that any proposed mainstream hydropower dams in the Lower Mekong Basin must be discussed extensively among all four countries prior to any decision being taken.

Around 90 Cambodian conservationists from various NGOs and government agencies last month jointly expressed their concerns over the Laos' Don Sahong dam development project, saying the proposed dam would pose a serious threat to the existence of biodiversity on the Mekong River such as rarely dolphin species and fishery resources vital to millions of people in Cambodia and Vietnam.

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has urged Prime Minister Hun Sen to call for a moratorium on the dam during the second MRC Summit, saying the dam could threaten the existence of critically endangered Irrawaddy dolphins in downstream Cambodia.

The proposed dam is located just 1 km upstream of the core habitat for Mekong dolphins, WWF said, adding that dolphins are critically endangered in the Mekong River, where their numbers have dwindled to around 85 individuals restricted to a 190 km stretch of the Mekong River mainstream between southern Laos and northeastern Cambodia.

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