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  • » 11/22/2012, 00.00


    Finnish firm in hot water over its approval of Xayaburi dam

    Poyry gives go ahead to dam on Mekong saying the Laotian government has complied with its obligations. At the same time, it signs an eight-year agreement to monitor dam construction. Environmentalists and NGOs are outraged over the "conflict of interests". Finnish authorities now vetting possible breach of ethics guidelines.

    Vientiane (AsiaNews/Agencies) - The controversy surrounding a report issued by a Finnish firm, Poyry, continues unabated. The study concluded that Laos can go ahead with the construction of the Xayaburi dam on the Laotian section of the Mekong River, despite opposition from other Mekong River Commission (MRC) member-nations since the project was in compliance with Laos' obligations to them. However, the report is before Finnish authorities in Helsinki after an ethics complaint was made against the company over possible conflict of interest.

    Otto Bruun, campaign manager of Friends of the Earth Finland, noted that the "company is fuelling a water conflict. This is bound to lead to serious negative human rights and environmental impact in the region."

    Lam Thi Thu Suu, co-ordinator of the Vietnam Rivers Network, said that "Poyry's misleading information about the impact of the Xayaburi Dam has prevented co-operation in sharing water resources from advancing."

    The firm's November 2011 report, commissioned by Laos, said that other commission members and stakeholders had been adequately consulted and the Xayaburi dam could proceed without the commission's further approval.

    This favourable assessment earned Poyry Energy an eight-year contract to monitor dam construction.

    Friends of the Earth and 14 other NGOs filed an ethics complaint against Poyry Plc and the Poyry Group because in their view the contract is an obvious "conflict of interest".

    A spokesperson for the Finnish firm rejected the accusations saying the study was conducted in a transparent manner.

    The Xayaburi dam project involves the construction of a US$ 3.5 billion hydroelectric plant with a capacity of 1,260 megawatts in a remote area of northern Laos.

    It entails the forced removal of 2,100 residents from local villages with an impact on tens of thousands more.

    A Thai company is in charge of the construction and Thailand would be the project's main beneficiary.

    Once up and running, the plant would make Laos the "battery" of Southeast Asia. However, the MRC has called for a ten-year moratorium on construction.

    Another study released in February of this year indicated that dams on the river could reduce the fish cash by 300,000 tonnes a year with major negative consequences for more than a million people, especially in Cambodia.

    Originating in the Tibetan plateau, the Mekong flows through the Chinese province of Yunnan before reaching Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam.

    About 65 million people live along the waterway, earning a living from fishing (estimated to be around US$ 3 billion in value) and fish farming.

    However, hydroelectric dams, including the one in Xayaburi, would threaten the 4,880-long waterway, the second most bio-diverse river in the world.

    Earlier this month, the Laotian government issued permits for the official start of construction.

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    See also

    19/04/2011 ASIA
    Following Vietnam protests, Laotian govt puts off Xayaburi dam decision
    The four-nation (Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Thailand) Mekong River Commission met today. There is “still a difference in views” over the project, which Vietnam vehemently opposes. Environmentalists back a ten-year moratorium. Vientiane gives in and postpones decision.

    06/11/2012 LAOS
    Vientiane go ahead for Xayaburi dam. Bangkok agrees, environmentalists at war
    The Laotian Government has given the green light to the resumption of work on the mega-plant for more than three billion dollars. Executive denies there are environmental problems. Opinion shared by Thailand. Ecologists and associations: "devastating" plants that put the region's development at risk.

    11/05/2012 LAOS
    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.

    25/03/2011 VIETNAM
    Damming the Mekong: water and food at risk for millions of people
    Vietnam and other countries discuss dam construction on the Mekong River. Experts say construction should be halted to study its impact. The lives of millions of people are at risk. But China and others are hungry for cheap electricity.

    07/07/2012 LAOS
    Xayaburi Dam, Vientiane promises halt on construction
    For the Lao Government work on the mega-plant has been stooped. However, changes are being considered to make the dam more "modern and transparent". Environmentalists sound alarm: the work continues and will have devastating impacts on the river and the Mekong basin countries. Protests of entire villages in Cambodia.

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