Vientiane Times, 13 June 2013
The Mega First Corporation Berhad (MFCB), a Malaysian developer, is helping local villagers in Khong district, Champassak province to improve fish migration and promote more sustainable ways of fishing.
The improvement of the natural fish channels is a priority for the proposed Don Sahong hydropower project on a channel of the Mekong River in the southernmost part of Laos. “We are paying special attention to improving the fish channels to ensure the numbers of natural fish remain unvaried when the hydropower plant begins operating,” MFCB’s senior environmental manager told officials of the Ministry of Energy and Mines and media representatives.
Several fish channels have been improved to allow better fish migration in the areas of the proposed project, especially the upgrade of the Xangpheuak Noi channel in Don Sahong village, the Hou Sadam channel in Don Sadam village and the Khonelan fish channel in Don Isom village.
“The improvements to the fish passages have included clearing the obstacles in the channels with the cooperation of local villagers, to allow different fish species to use various natural channels to go up and down the river,” MFCB environmental manager Dr Peter Hawkins explained. According to Dr Hawkins, villagers removed a total of 77 fish traps from the Hou Sadam channel that had blocked natural migration patterns and prevented fish from reaching spawning areas.
Aside from the improvements to the fish channels, the company also raised awareness among local villagers about sustainable fishing methods and supporting fish breeding programmes.
“The promotion of more sust ainable manners of fishing is crucial to maintaining the fish population as well as the balance of biodiversity ahead of the dam construction project commencing,” Dr Hawkins said.
“Local fishermen gave up traditional rights to build permanent fish traps in the fish passes, with the understanding that other fishing methods like cast net fishing can still continue,” he added. “This is an import ant first step in developing local co-operative management, so more adult fish can successfully move upstream to spawn and produce a new generation of fish to sustain the fishery in the future.”
Senior officials from the Ministry of Energy and Mines visited the fish channel improvement areas on Sunday June 9, to inspect the progress of the initiative. Mega First Corporation Berhad signed an MOU agreement with the Lao government to conduct studies on the proposed Don Sahong dam back in 2006. A project development agreement reached in 2008 was extended in March this year.