Kristin Lynch, 19 October 2011
Phnom Penh Post
China's dam-building ambitions and alleged lack of transparency were
front and centre yesterday during a roundtable discussion on Mekong
River development held in the capital.
Representatives from the Chinese embassy defended their country's
record, claiming that China was "eager to participate" in regional
"We arenï¿½t dominating this river," embassy representative Xu Daizhu
said. "We want to cooperate with other countries in this region, and we
want to cooperate with each other to use the water resources in this
However, panelists accused the Asian power of irresponsible development.
"Chinese dams cause unprecedented social and environmental problems,
causing damage to agriculture, fishery forests and ways of life," said
fellow panelist Pou Sothirak, former minister of industry, mines and energy.
China is now the top builder of dams in Cambodia, Ame Trandem, Southeast
Asia Program Director for International Rivers, said yesterday.
Currently, five large Chinese dams have been approved in the Kingdom and
another four are under consideration, Trandem said, adding that four
dams constructed on the Mekong in Chinas Yunnan province were undertaken
without consulting Chinaï¿½s neighbours.
During yesterday's discussion, Chinaï¿½s transparency also came under
assault. "The Chinese government in the past has been keeping all the
information on the dams confidential," Pou Sothirak said. "If your
government would be so kind as to join the Mekong River Commission, that
would be a big gift, because joining means you need to release
everything openly." Trandem supported allegations of a lack of
transparency, saying that, "to date, China has failed to meet
international standards of accountability, transparency and public
participation." However, Xu Daizhu upheld China's commitment to regional
cooperation. "China is willing to listen, we arenï¿½t closing our doors
and doing our own thing," she said. "Thatï¿½s why I am here and learning
about your concerns."
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