05/11/2012, 00.00
LAOS
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Cambodia "suspends" construction of dam on Mekong

Vientiane’s decision follows by protests from Cambodia and ecological groups that the dam will have serious consequences for millions of people. The dam would be the first of 11 planned constructions, but experts had called for a moratorium of 10 years to complete studies on their impact.

Vientiane (AsiaNews) - Laos has decided to suspend the construction of the Xayaburi dam on the Mekong River. The decision, announced Wednesday by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Vientiane is linked to the protests of environmental groups and Cambodia (pictured).

The construction of the dam, was subject to the go ahead from an Intergovernmental Commission (MRC) comprising stakeholders from the Mekong countries, namely Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam. In December, the MRC had said that no project should go forward before further assessments were completed on the environmental impact of damming the river. There is talk of 11 dams, which would add to the five already built by China in the highest part of the river. The Xayaburi would be the first after the Mekong crosses the Chinese border and a group of experts had recommended a 10 year halt to the construction of dams to assess the potentially hazardous environmental and socio-economic impact.

Nevertheless, in April, the Thai company Ch Karnchang announced it has signed a contract worth 1.7 billion dollars with the Xayaburi Power Co to build a dam to get 1,290 megawatts.

The announcement was followed by protests from environmental groups - for whom the dam, would prevent fish from swimming upstream and would undermine the food system of millions of people - and the Commission itself.

A spokesman for which, last Tuesday, said the project had to be subjected to further tests to assess their environmental impact. "The construction of the dam must stop until the conclusion of the studies," said Surasack Glahan, interviewed by Radio Free Asia.

The Commission's conclusion was backed up by Cambodian protests and the Vientiane announcement that the construction "is suspended, postponed."

 

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