Construction continues on controversial Laos dam

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Updated July 03, 2012 17:47:09

Photo: Despite undertaking to halt construction until further study is carried out, work appears to be going ahead on a controversial dam on the Mekong river in Laos. (Chor Sokunthea: Reuters)

There are concerns amongst Mekong countries that Laos is going ahead with the controversial Xayaburi dam project.

The dam is located south west of Luang Prabang, and north of where the Mekong enters Thailand, before it flows on to Cambodia and Vietnam.

Laos agreed in December to suspend the project, pending an assessment by Japanese experts, but a recent report by the US-based International Rivers organisation has found work is being done near the site.

Kirk Herbertson, the Southeast Asia Policy Coordinator for International Rivers, recently travelled to the dam’s construction site and told Radio Australia’s Connect Asia that it appears the project is very much going ahead.

“We travelled to the construction site where we learnt that the work has moved well beyond the preparatory stage that the Thai company claims is happening,” he said.

“They had told all the governments that only access roads were being built, but when we visited we saw that an entire village has already been relocated, there are dozens of construction vehicles in operations, and villagers were also able to confirm that the company has already dredged and widened the river, which is likely to already be having environmental impacts.”

The project is funded by Thai banks and 95 per cent of the electricity generated will go to Thailand.

Mr Herbertson says there has been high level protest about these actions by both the Cambodian and Vietnamese governments, who expressed their desire that construction be delayed while further studies are being carried out.

Environmental groups in Thailand are concerned about the environmental and food security repercussions.

“On July 23rd, several Thai villagers, in the Northeast, who would be effected by the Xayaburi dam because it is a dam with trans-boundary impacts, they will be bringing a lawsuit in a Thai administrative court, saying that their constitutional rights are being violated,” said Mr Herbertson.

“We are hoping that with the lawsuit filed in July that there will be more attention on Thailand’s role in the project and on the companies involved,” he said.

Topics: dams-and-reservoirs, building-and-construction, government-and-politics, asia, lao-people-s-democratic-republic, cambodia, vietnam, thailand

First posted July 03, 2012 17:37:04


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