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By Asia Sentinel Mar 01, 2012 11:26AM UTC
Despite reservations from Mekong Basin countries, construction continues, reports Asia Sentinel
Over the opposition of environmental groups and the governments of other countries in the Mekong Basin, the Thai government is pushing ahead with the construction of the controversial Xayaburi Dam, environmentalists say.
Although the Cambodian and Vietnamese governments have expressed concerns about the dam and work was supposed to stop until further study has been completed, preliminary construction on the giant dam deep inside Laos, is continuing, according to International Rivers, which opposes the structure.
Large numbers of workers have been on the job for two years to build access roads and facilities for the project, said Pianporn Deetes, Thailand Campaign Coordinator for International Rivers. Ch. Karnchang, Thailand’s largest construction company, has the contract to build the dam for the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand, better known as EGAT, which has contracted to 95 percent of the energy from the dam.
“It doesn’t mean the dam can’t be stopped,” Deets told Asia Sentinel in a telephone interview. “We believe there are many channels that we can try to cancel the PPA (power purchase agreement).”
Thailand appears to be defying an agreement in early December by the Mekong River Commission Council, comprising water and environment ministers from Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam, to seek international support to produce a more complete study of the dam, which is intended to produce 1,280 megawatts of power for the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand.
The Mekong supports the largest freshwater fishery in the world. The downstream governments are concerned that the Xayaburi and 10 other dams planned for the Mekong, which feeds a river basin populated by 60 million people, will do irreparable damage to the river’s habitat.
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Thursday, 01 March 2012
The Thai government is defying a regional decision-making process by proceeding with the implementation of a controversial US$3.8 billion hydropower dam project in northern Laos, an environmental group said yesterday.
“Recent oversight hearings by the Thai Senate and the National Human Rights Commission confirm that the government has joined Laos in concluding that the regional process is complete, thereby allowing Thai developer Ch. Karnchang to proceed with construction,” International Rivers said in a statement.
In April, at a meeting of the Mekong River Commission, Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam raised concerns about the potential trans-boundary impact of the proposed dam.
At an MRC council meeting in Siem Reap in December, the four countries agreed “in principle” to seek support from the Japanese government and other partners for further impact studies of hydropower projects on the Mekong mainstream.
The International Rivers statement said the Thais were flouting that informal pact.
An investigation International Rivers conducted last week had revealed “preliminary construction” on the dam was continuing, the statement said.
It also said the Thai Energy Minister had informed a Senate committee in a letter dated January 30 that “the Ministry of Natural Resources confirms that the [MRC] Prior Consultation process has completed” and that the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand had signed a power-purchasing agreement with the project developer in October.
Thai government representatives and MRC communications officer Surasak Glahan were not available for comment late yesterday.
Asked about the letter quoted in the statement, Te Navuth, secretary-general of the Cambodia National Mekong Committee, said it was “internal” and did not represent the four countries.
He said the Lao delegation to the December meeting had told development partners that action had been taken to “prepare the [dam] site”, but construction would not proceed unless member countries reached an agreement.
Lao government representatives could not be reached.