Vietnam drops objections to Laos dam on Mekong and Thailand do not opposed Xayaburi Dam


Vietnam drops objections to Laos dam on Mekong

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By Associated Press

Thursday, Nov 8, 2012 04:45 AM EST

HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — Vietnam has apparently dropped its objections to a dam that Laos is constructing on the Mekong River, saying that the neighboring country has made changes in the design to mitigate any negative downstream impacts.

Laos officials reportedly said this week that construction of the Xaburi dam was going ahead.

Vietnam last year proposed a 10-year moratorium on any dams on the Mekong and has expressed concern that the dam would kill fish and affect livelihoods along its stretch of the river.

Foreign ministry spokesman Luong Thanh Nghi said Thursday that Laos had decided to build the dam “after adjusting the project design to mitigate the impact on the downstream.”

The U.S. on Monday criticized the decision to go ahead with the dam, citing feared negative environmental impact downstream


The Thais, meanwhile, have reinforced their support for the project, albeit in an understated way, when the foreign minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul said on Tuesday that “the Thai government is not opposed to the project.”

The Xayaburi dam is a joint venture between Thai companies CH Karnchang, PTT and a state-owned enterprise. Thailand is expected to import around 90 per cent of the power generated by the dam when it is completed in 2019.

Despite rising demand in the region for electricity, particularly renewables, previous investments in hydropower have not always been successful. The Mun River dam in northern Thailand, on a Mekong tributary, went over-budget when it was built in the 1990s and caused widespread environmental damage for little benefit to investors.

Laos clearly has ambitions to be a regional electricity exporter and much foreign investment is being attracted for building projects, but opposition groups may find it difficult in a region where securing economic growth is a priority not easily curbed. In the immediate future, the profits may roll in for Laos, but the eventual price may be much higher.  See reported from Bangkok Post below:


Thai govt suports Xayaburi dam

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The Thai government on Tuesday supported Vientiane’s decision to begin immediate construction of the controversial Xayaburi hydropower dam on the lower Mekong River – which downstream communities and environmentalists have strongly opposed.

”The Thai government is not opposed to the project,” said Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichachaikul, speaking at the sidelines of the Asia-Europe Meeting in Vientiane, Laos.

”The Lao government has already conducted studies that show there would be no impact on the environment and fisheries,” Mr Surapong said.

Laos will hold a ground-breaking ceremony on Wednesday in Xayaburi province to mark the start of riverbed construction on the 120-billion-baht project.

The date was chosen to commemorate the 95th anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, still a significant date in communist Laos which used to be a member of the Soviet bloc, government sources said.

In December, members of the Mekong River Commission’s council, consisting of water and environment ministers from Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam, urged a delay to allow further studies on how to mitigate the environmental impact of the dam, the first proposed for the lower Mekong.

In response, Laos and its chief partner in the project, Thailand’s Ch Karnchang Plc, agreed to spend an additional 100 million dollars to revamp the design of a fish ladder and sediment flow gates.

Lao Deputy Energy and Mines Minister Viraphonh Viravong said the redesign has satisfied all parties, including Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam.

”There is no need for their formal approval,” Mr Viraphonh said of Laos’ neighbours that share the Mekong as a valuable natural resource. So far, only Thailand has openly expressed its support of the project.

In the past, the Xayaburi project faced strong opposition from neighbouring governments and environmentalist groups who raised questions about its impact on sediment flows downstream and fish migration.

The lower Mekong Basin has a fisheries sector worth an estimated 78 billion baht per year.

“The food security and jobs of millions of people in the region are now on the line,” said Ame Trandem, Southeast Asia program director for International Rivers.

“Laos has never even collected basic information about the ways that people depend on the river, so how can it say that there will be no impacts?” Ms Trandem said.

Ultimately, the decision to go ahead with the project lies with Laos, as the dam site is in Lao territory.

”Laos wants to build the Xayaburi dam to increase it’s electricity exports to Thailand,” Mr Surapong said. ”That’s what Laos wants, and the dam is inside Lao territory.”

The country already has 13 hydroelectric plants in operation with a total capacity for 3,000 megawatts.

The Xayaburi project, to be operational by 2019, will be one of its largest, with more than 90% of its electricity to be exported to neighbouring Thailand.

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Writer: dpa

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