Help Us Save The Mekong
View Original Source: http://af.reuters.com/article/energyOilNews/idAFL3E7G53BM20110505?sp=true
Thu May 5, 2011 2:28pm GMT
HANOI May 5 (Reuters) – Communist Laos called on Thursday for trust on a controversial dam across the lower Mekong river that has sparked strong opposition from its neighbours and environmental groups.
In a rare direct comment from the secretive country, Khempheng Pholsena, chairwoman of the Laos National Mekong Committee and a government minister, said the Xayaburi Dam would be “socially and environmentally sustainable”.
“Trust Laos,” she told reporters in Hanoi on the sidelines of an annual meeting of the Asian Development Bank.
“We take the concern seriously. Please give us time,” she added. Plans for the dam have put Laos on a collision course with its neighbours and environmentalists who fear livelihoods, fish species and farmland could be destroyed, potentially sparking a food crisis.
Last month the four countries that share the lower stretches of the 4,900 km (3,044 mile) Mekong — Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam — failed at a meeting to reach agreement on construction of the 1.285-megawatt (MW) dam, the first of 11 planned in the lower Mekong that are expected to generate 8 percent of Southeast Asia’s power by 2025.
Vietnam, which has long been the closest ally Laos has, last month asked it to delay the $3.5 million project by 10 years.
The Lao government has hailed Xayaburi as a model for clean, green energy that will stimulate its tiny $6 billion economy and improve the lives of its 5.9 million people, over a quarter of whom live below the poverty line, many without electricity.
Its energy-hungry neighbour, Thailand, will buy about 95 percent of the power generated by the dam and three Thai firms have a stake in the project, according to an announcement on Thailand’s stock exchange last month.
Pholsena said Laos had faced opposition to another dam project, the Nam Theun hydropower plant, but had laid concerns to rest, and would do the same again.
Laos needed to be “strong and stand on its own feet”, she said. (Reporting by Tran Le Thuy; Editing by John Ruwitch and Robert Birsel)
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Help Us Save The Mekong
An investigation by the Bangkok Post Sunday which visited the area surrounding the Xayaburi dam on the Lower Mekong River last week found major road works under construction and villagers preparing to be relocated. Several of the villagers said they were to receive as little as US$15 (450 baht) in compensation for moving from the area. Trucks and backhoes bearing the name of Ch Karnchang, the Thai company jointly involved in the $3.5 billion project with the Lao government, were seen clearing and grading roads. More
Ch Karnchang Plc (CK), Thailand’s second-largest contractor, insists that banks and the government of Laos remain committed to the Xayaburi dam the company plans to build on the Mekong River. More
“We expect to receive an official notification from the Lao government within one to two weeks to carry on with the project,” he said at CK’s annual shareholders meeting yesterday. More
but warned that further environmental studies would take longer than Laos was willing to wait. Indeed the patience of the Lao authorities may already have run out. A report in the Bangkok Post includes photos that appear to show that construction at the site is already under way. More