Posts tagged ‘Mekong River Commission (MRC)’

November 5, 2012

Laos to Start Building Mekong Dam This Week Amid Opposition

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By Daniel Ten Kate – Nov 5, 2012 4:39 AM ET

Laos will start construction this week on a $3.6 billion hydropower dam on the Mekong River that has been delayed for 18 months amid opposition from downstream countries and activist groups.

The groundbreaking ceremony will take place on Nov. 7 at the site of the dam, according to Viraphonh Viravong, deputy minister of energy and mining. Bangkok-based Ch. Karnchang Pcl (CK), PTT Pcl (PTT) and Electricity Generating Pcl (EGCO) are among major shareholders of Xayaburi Power Co., the dam’s operator.

“It has been assessed, it has been discussed the last two years,” Viraphonh said today by phone. “We have addressed most of the concerns.”

The hydropower plant is the first among eight that Laos plans to build on the Mekong to expand Southeast Asia’s smallest economy by selling electricity to neighboring countries. Vietnam last year recommended a 10-year delay for all dam projects on the river, which also runs through Myanmar, Thailand and Cambodia from its source in China’s Tibetan plateau.

Ch. Karnchang shares rose 5.7 percent to 9.30 baht in Bangkok, the highest close since Jan. 20.

Thai opponents of the dam held a protest today on the Mekong across from Vientiane, the Laos capital where Asian and European leaders from about 50 countries are meeting for a summit. In August, they filed a lawsuit in Thailand’s Administrative Court to cancel an agreement for the Electricity Generating Authority, known as Egat, to buy almost all the power from the 1,285-megawatt project.

Environmental Concerns

“Laos never collected basic information about the ways that people depend on the river, so how can it say that there will be no impact?” Pianporn Deetes, a campaign coordinator with International Rivers, a Berkeley, California-based nonprofit group that aims to protect rivers and human rights, said in an e-mail. “The environmental and social concerns were never taken seriously.”

Viraphonh said measures have been taken to ensure a limited impact on the environment. Cambodian officials who had opposed the dam are now “very happy” with its design, he said.

“The lesson of Xayaburi is that we have raised the standard of dam projects,” Viraphonh said. “We are taking care more of the environment and other concerns. Other projects can follow some similar standards to Xayaburi.”

Laos, a landlocked nation of 6 million people, plans to expand its generating capacity and sell electricity to its neighbors. Hydropower’s contribution to government revenue will more than double to 1 percent of gross domestic product compared with two years ago, according to the World Bank.

Fisheries, Rice

Planned hydropower and mining projects combined with increased electricity demand in neighboring countries will probably keep economic growth at 8 percent a year through 2015, the International Monetary Fund said in a report last year. Laos opened a stock exchange last year that has two companies.

About 60 million people depend on the Mekong and its tributaries for food, water and transportation, according to the Mekong River Commission, an inter-governmental body. Neighboring countries are concerned the dam will disrupt fisheries and rice production.

Ch. Karnchang, Thailand’s third-biggest construction company by market value, owns a 50 percent stake in Xayaburi, according to its website. PTT, Thailand’s biggest company, has a 25 percent stake and Egat owns 12.5 percent.

“Hydropower is a big natural advantage for Laos,” Viraphonh said. “If you cannot develop the Xayaburi project, what other choice do we have?”

To contact the reporter on this story: Daniel Ten Kate in Bangkok at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Daniel Ten Kate at

November 2, 2012

Laos admits work is going ahead on a controversial dam

Damming the Mekong river

River elegy

Laos admits work is going ahead on a controversial dam

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Nov 3rd 2012 | from the print edition

In this section

THE Mekong river, snaking its way through the heart of South-East Asia, has long sustained the world’s biggest and most productive inland fishery, supplying protein for around 65m mainly poor people from four riparian countries, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. But scientists warn that this ecosystem is gravely threatened by the Lao government’s rush to exploit its water resources, egged on by Thai, Chinese and European energy companies.

The decision by Laos to push ahead with the giant Xayaburi dam makes it the first of what could prove to be a cascade of 11 proposed dams on the lower Mekong. Because the decision fails to take account of the consequences for downstream countries, it has raised tensions with neighbours. Having long pretended otherwise, the Lao government recently asserted that construction was forging ahead, and indeed was on schedule. That prompted a warning from the president of Vietnam, Truong Tan Sang, that “tensions over water resources are not only threatening economic growth in many countries, but also presenting a source of conflict”.

Cambodia and Vietnam have jointly called upon Laos to observe an agreement in December 2011 by the Mekong River Commission (MRC) to wait for further scientific study about the impacts of dams on the lower Mekong (dams already exist much higher up, in China, but their downstream impacts are limited). The MRC, made up of the four riparian states, is supposed to operate within a framework of mutual co-operation and consultation. But with a consortium of Thai banks backing Ch. Karnchang, the Thai construction company behind the dam, there is in effect an alliance between Thailand and Laos, dividing the commission down the middle.

With the MRC in disarray, some hope that an Asia-Europe summit in the Lao capital, Vientiane, on November 5th-6th will provide a chance for governments opposed to the Xayaburi dam to put pressure on the host nation. Many marvels of the Mekong face being wiped out, including the Mekong giant catfish and the Irrawaddy dolphin, as well as the spectacular Khone waterfall. Scientists say the stakes could not be higher. Philip Hirsch at the University of Sydney predicts that the loss of the fish catch for millions of Asia’s poorest people will prove larger than the entire freshwater catch of Europe and West Africa combined.

The United States and Finland, the largest donor to the MRC, are among nations urging Laos to wait for more scientific data on the likely transboundary impacts. The Lao energy ministry has turned for justification to the work of international energy firms that include Colenco, a Swiss consultancy, Poyry, a Finno-Swiss power company, and Team Consultants of Thailand. But Jian-hua Meng of the WWF, a conservation group, argues that the standard of work done by Colenco for the Xayaburi proposal would be “highly unlikely” to be acceptable back in Switzerland. Meanwhile the Finnish parent company of Poyry has been blacklisted for corruption by the World Bank, and NGOs have urged Finland to investigate the Swiss arm for alleged violation of OECD guidelines in dealing with the Lao government.

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May 1, 2012

Save the Mekong Press Release: As Mekong Leaders Gather, Public Awaits Answers on Xayaburi Dam

Save the Mekong Press Release: For Immediate Release

As Mekong Leaders Gather, Public Awaits Answers on Xayaburi Dam

1 May 2012

Phuket, Thailand –As the Mekong River Commission (MRC) member countries gather today for the MRC’s Mekong 2 Rio International Conference on Transboundary River Basin Management,  the Save the Mekong coalition has called upon regional governments to immediately address the ambiguities that have been left unanswered with respect to the future of the Xayaburi Dam and other mainstream dams.

On April 20th, the Save the Mekong coalition sent letters to the MRC’s respective Council members and CEO Mr. Hans Guttman asking for clarification on whether the prior consultation process for the Xayaburi Dam remains open and whether approval has been granted to build the Xayaburi Dam.  These concerns follow the April 17th announcement by Xayaburi Dam developer Ch. Karnchang that it had signed a $711 million construction contract with the Xayaburi Power Company, and that construction on the dam commenced on March 15, 2012.

“Ch. Karnchang has no right to build this project because no regional agreement has been made,” said Niwat Roykaew, Chair of the Chiang Khong Conservation Group in Thailand. “In December, the four governments agreed to postpone the decision on the dam, in order to carry out a transboundary impact assessment of the Mekong mainstream dams.  Thailand and Laos must act decisively and demand a stop to all construction activities.”

The Save the Mekong coalition also expressed concern over reports that the Thai government had signed the Xayaburi Dam’s power purchase agreement and granted permission for state-owned Krung Thai Bank to fund this dam, which appears to be in direct violation with the 1995 Mekong Agreement.  The coalition urged Thailand to immediately withdraw all involvement in the dam.

“The MRC’s prior consultation process is not finished, and yet construction is starting. Thailand and Laos are endangering the entire future of the Mekong River Basin,” said Pianporn Deetes, Thailand Campaign Coordinator for International Rivers. “Before regional cooperation becomes jeopardized, it’s time the four countries renew their commitment to work together to protect the Mekong.”

“The Xayaburi Dam is not on the agenda of the Mekong2Rio conference, but will be the elephant in the room,” said Youra Sun, Executive Director of My Village in Cambodia. “Now is the time to spotlight the urgent need for the Mekong governments to chart a clear political path forward on the Xayaburi Dam.”

Tu Dao Trong, a representative of Vietnam Rivers Network said, “If the Mekong governments really want to discuss the future of transboundary cooperation around the Mekong River, they first need to agree on an immediate halt to the Xayaburi Dam while further studies are underway. We hope this conference becomes an opportunity for real dialogue.”

The Save the Mekong coalition’s April 20th letter stated that “scientific evidence to date overwhelmingly supports our position that these dams will cause significant and irreparable damage to the Mekong River and the people who depend on it.” The coalition has called upon regional governments to work together to protect the Mekong River as the river is central to the lives, ecology, and cultures of the region.

The Save the Mekong coalition fully supports the actions of Thai villagers from the Mekong region, who have traveled to Phuket and will be presenting a petition to the MRC member governments this morning to raise awareness about the Xayaburi Dam and call for its cancellation.

Mekong 2 Rio is considered a key regional event in the run-up to the United Nations’ Rio+20 Summit on Sustainable Development that world leaders will attend in Brazil in June. The Xayaburi Dam has become one of the most controversial sustainable development issues in Southeast Asia.


For more information:
Read the Save the Mekong letters sent to the MRC Council Members and CEO

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Protestors Condemn Ch. Karnchang Over Xayaburi Dam Construction

Thai villagers gather ouside Ch. Karnchang Headquarters to protest construction of the Xayaburi Dam

The Mekong River sustains the lives of millions of people living in the region

May 1, 2012

Anti-dam activists picket Phuket meeting

PHUKET: Around 30 members of the Network of Thai People in eight Mekong Provinces (TPMP) travelled from the Thai northeast to Phuket to protest today (May 1) against the Xayaburi Dam, a major project to dam the giant river.

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Paritta Wangkiat

Tuesday 1 May 2012, 05:10PM

Anti-dam protestors lay siege to the Mekong River Commission meeting in Karon.

With the Mekong River Commission (MRC) holding an international conference on “transboundary river basin management” at the Mövenpick Resort in Karon from today until Thursday, the TPMP saw a chance to confront senior figures in the Thai government to call for them to pay more attention to the sustainable exploitation of the Mekong.

The Xayaburi Dam project on the Mekong river in Laos, currently under construction, is aimed at giving the impoverished country an income from electricity generation.

If completed, the dam, 810 metres long and 32 metres high, would be capable of producing 1,260 megawatts of electricity. Ninety per cent of that would be sold to the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT).

The Xayaburi Dam is the first of 12 hydroelectric projects proposed for the Mekong River and its tributaries under a blanket vision of the river becoming “the battery of South East Asia”.

On April 17, a Thailand-based company, Chor Karnchang, signed a B51-billion contract with a Laotian company Xayaburi Power to build the dam.

Construction began in March, sparking outrage from the TPMP because the project’s environmental impact assessment has yet to be completed.

Niwat Roykeaw, a leader of the TPMP, explained that the project would have a major effect on the ecology and local communities downstream, in Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam.

According to eco-campaigning organisation International Rivers, the dam, when complete, will result in the forcible resettlement of more than 2,100 people, directly affect the livelihoods of more than 200,000 others, and bring permanent ecological change to the river, which feeds millions of people.

Mr Niwat added that the start of construction breached the Procedures for Notification, Prior Consultation and Agreement (PNPCA), which states that the nations along the Mekong River must consult the MRC before building a mega project on the river.

“The governments of four nations [along the Mekong] and the MRC must get serious about the PNPCA,” said Mr Niwat. “This project will bring conflict between nations.”

However, the CEO of the MRC, Hans Guttman, told media that although the MRC acts as a coordinator among Mekong nations, it has no power to make decisions on the dam.

The Lao government is preparing for construction of the dam, he added, but has not yet decided absolutely whether to go ahead.

“The decision depends on the Lao government,” said Mr Guttman.

The TPMP said it will watch the MRC’s reactions to events in Laos “for a period of time”.

If no “action” is taken, a TPMP spokesman said, the group will up the stakes with a blockade of the First Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge, which spans the river between Nong Khai and Vientiane.

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Shane Worrell
Tuesday, 01 May 2012

Criticism of the controversial Xayaburi hydro dam project in northern Laos is mounting in Thailand – the country set to enjoy most of the electricity if the project is completed.

Representatives from 130 Thai civil-society organisations yesterday published a statement backing a report that outlines an alternative power plan to the 1,260-megawatt dam project on the Mekong River.

The Power Development Plan 2012, produced by Thai energy experts Chuenchom Sangasri Greacen and Dr Chris Greacen, was presented to the Thai government last week.

According to a statement by International Rivers, the report states that power from the Xayaburi dam is not needed to meet Thailand’s energy needs and calls for investment in renewable energy and other alternatives, which could reduce electricity bills by “12 per cent” by 2030.

“Thailand’s energy planning process is in a state of crisis. Persistent over-forecasting of energy demand has led to over-investment and onerous economic burdens on consumers,” Ms Greacen is quoted in the International Rivers statement. \

“This new power plan identifies barriers and offers realistic energy solutions, which will bring social, economic and environmental benefits to Thailand.”

Thai development firm Ch.­Karnchang announced on April 17 it had begun construction work on the dam on March 15.

This announcement came despite Mekong River Commission member states Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam agreeing in December that a study of the dam’s potential harm to the Mekong River and its communities must be carried out first.

To contact the reporter on this story: Shane Worrell at

April 25, 2012

Anti-Dam Protests Target Builder, Lenders

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Activists demand that a Thai company cease construction of the dam.

Activists protest the construction of the Xayaburi Dam in front of the Lao Embassy in Bangkok, April 18, 2011.

More than 60 representatives of communities along the Mekong River gathered in Bangkok Tuesday to protest construction of the controversial Xayaburi Dam on the Mekong River in Laos, despite international criticism.

A Thai construction company signed an agreement last week for pushing ahead with the construction of the dam in northern Laos in defiance of a ruling by the Mekong River Commission (MRC), an inter-governmental body that manages development along the regional artery.

According to the December ruling, the dam project should be delayed until a comprehensive environmental impact study can more properly identify potential risks.

Four Laotians took part in the protests in the Thai capital against Ch. Karnchang, the Thai company tasked with building the U.S. $3.8 billion dam, and a group of Thai banks lending the firm funds to proceed with construction.

The 1,260-megawatt dam would provide 95 percent of its electricity to Thailand.

“[Dam opponents] had blocked the project once before, but now [the Lao government and the Thai company] are restarting it,” one of the Laotians told RFA.

“If the dam is built, the local people will not be able to grow vegetables on the bank of the Mekong anymore. This will destroy their economy.”
Ch. Karnchang revealed last week that construction of the project in Laos would be stepped up from March 15. It said it expects to finish the project in eight years.

Targeting lenders

A representative of the Chaing Rai Lower Mekong People’s Network said protesters planned to present Ch. Karnchang’s lenders with a letter asking them to stop funding the project.

“When we were here last time, we submitted a letter asking Ch. Karnchang to stop the project, but they wouldn’t,” he said.

“Now we are going to the Siam Commercial Bank to ask the bank and three others to stop lending money to Ch. Karnchang because that money will have a serious impact on the people of the lower Mekong region.”

The other banks that have provided loans to Ch. Karchang include Bangkok Bank, Krung Thai Bank and Kasikorn Bank.

The letter also demands that Ch. Karchang immediately suspend the project because of the potential damage to the Mekong eco-system, fisheries, and food security of the people on both sides of the river.

Another protester said preliminary construction work, such as building of access roads, has been ongoing and affecting riparian communities in the vicinity.

“According to a survey we have conducted, the dam project has already evicted many villagers—our friends in Laos,” he said.

On Wednesday, the core leaders of the represented groups will meet with environmentalists in Nakhor Phranom province to hold another rally and to discuss the impact of the dam on the people and ecology, they said.

December agreement

In December, Laos’s three downstream neighbors—Cambodia, Thailand, and Vietnam—pushed for a suspension of construction following a campaign by environmental groups and local civil society and the recommendation by an expert study group for a 10-year moratorium on all mainstream dams, pending additional research on their potentially catastrophic environmental and socioeconomic impact.

The four countries of the MRC agreed in principle that further studies on the Xayaburi Dam’s impact were needed before it could be built.

The MRC is the main body through which the countries negotiate and discuss transboundary effects of management of their shared river and has been important to building consensus in the region.

But experts say that if the Xayaburi moves forward, it could spell the end of the MRC, rendering it irrelevant as an institution.

Pianporn Deetes, coordinator for International Rivers, a California-based water rights group, said the Lao government must look beyond the short-term benefits of the dam.

“This project may generate some money for the government, but in the long-term the government should look at possible serious impacts to the Mekong River and the whole region,” she said.

“In addition, the dam will create a conflict in the region. The government should think about the people and their children, who will have to move to new villages where not much land will be available for them to cultivate.”

Laos, which has planned over 70 dams on its rivers, has said it hopes to become the “battery” of Southeast Asia.

The Mekong River is central to the livelihoods and food security of an estimated 65 million people, studies have shown.

Reported by RFA’s Lao service. Translated by Max Avary. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.

Copyright © 1998-2011 Radio Free Asia. All rights reserved.

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