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"WATER FOR THE POOR" WEEK
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 30, 2004
Contact: Susanne Wong
International Rivers Network
Tel: +1 510 848 1155
Mobile phone: +1 510 213 1441
ADB “WATER FOR THE POOR” WEEK REVEALS HYPOCRISY OF INSTITUTION Plans for Mekong Power Grid Would Undermine People’s Rights
As the Asian Development Bank’s “Water Week 2004” winds
to a close in Manila, communities are at risk of losing their livelihoods
and natural resources to the ADB-supported Mekong power grid.
The ADB is leading the development of a Mekong region power grid fueled
primarily by hydropower. Twelve hydropower projects are proposed to connect
to the grid, including the controversial Nam Theun 2 Dam in Laos, two dams
on the Upper Mekong in China and Tasang Dam in Burma. The Bank claims that
the Mekong power grid will provide cheap, reliable and environmentally
sustainable power for Thailand and Vietnam. However, critics are concerned
that the hydro projects will forcibly displace tens of thousands, decimate
fisheries and destroy the cultures and rights of ethnic minorities.
“Hydropower projects built for the grid would disrupt the fragile
Mekong River ecosystem on which millions depend for their livelihoods and
This would undermine the basic rights to water of the people who can least
afford it,” says Susanne Wong, IRN’s Southeast Asia Campaigner.
A report released today by IRN shows that the ADB has violated its safeguard
policies on energy, water and indigenous peoples in the development of
the power grid. For example, civil society has been excluded from the planning
process in spite of provisions in the Bank’s water policy. There has
been no assessment of the cumulative impacts of the proposed hydropower
projects, in violation of the Bank’s energy policy. The economic benefits
are marginal at best.
Despite these policy violations, the ADB is pressing forward with the Mekong
power grid. Last year, the ADB approved a technical assistance grant to
develop a pivotal power trade operating agreement. In late 2003, the ADB
approved technical assistance grants for the Nam Theun 2 Hydropower Project
and for power interconnection between Thailand and Vietnam.
“If the ADB truly cares about meeting people’s needs for water,
the ADB should suspend the Mekong power grid,” says Susanne Wong,
Southeast Asia Campaigner. “Instead, the Bank should ensure that a
comprehensive assessment of energy options for the region is carried out
following the recommendations of the World Commission on Dams.”
The report, entitled “Sizing Up the Grid: How the Mekong Power Grid
Compares Against the Policies of the Asian Development Bank,” is available
online at www.irn.org (full report