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July 24, 2012 2:52 pm
Laos’ construction work on the first dam on the lower Mekong River requires a strong response from neighbouringcountries to delay the project, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) said Tuesday.
Environmentalists say the Xayaburi dam in northern Laos would havedetrimental effects on wildlife and residents’ livelihoods. TheMekong River Commission, of which Laos is a member, called for theproject to be delayed by 10 years to allow environmental research, but construction and the resettlement of villages have proceeded, theWWF said.
The WWF was included in a delegation of foreign diplomats andexperts taken to the dam site last week to be briefed on the Thaicontractor’s plans to mitigate the impact on fisheries and sedimentflows.
“While Laos’ decision to host a visit to the dam site is positive,it’s clear construction is advancing,” said Jian-hua Meng, the WWF’ssustainable hydropower specialist, who joined the delegation.
The groups was told that extra money would be spent on the3.8-billion-dollar project to aid fish migration and sediment flowsin the Mekong.
But environmental groups such as International Rivers and now theWWF argued that the dam’s proposed technologies, such as fishpassages, have been untested in South-East Asian rivers.
“Nowhere in the tropics has a successful fish passage been builtfor a dam the size of Xayaburi,” said Eric Baran of the World FishCentre in Phnom Penh, Cambodia