09/16/2011, 00.00
CAMBODIA – LAOS – VIETNAM

Vietnamese study: Xayaburi dam could cause earthquakes

The site chosen for mega project in Laos is on the course of the River Mekong and only about 100km from a fault line. The project has brought protests from conservation groups and representatives from Cambodia and Vietnam, because it could threaten the ecological balance in the area. Senior Laotian officials: work will start "before the end of this year ”.
Phnom Penh (AsiaNews/Agenzie) - The Xayaburi dam project in northern Laos might increase the probability of earthquakes in a region already prone to seismic activity. This warning emerged from a study published by Nguyen Hong Phuong, a researcher at Vietnam’s Centre for Earthquake and Tsunami Warnings, who fears the mega-dam will increase telluric activity and threaten the Mekong ecosystem, affecting tens of thousands of people living along the waterway in Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam.

The Vietnamese researcher warned that the 1260-megawatt project sits about 100 kilometres south of the Lai Chau-Dien Bien fault line in a seism prone area
“After the tsunami in Japan, I find this report to be very serious,” Tran Tu, commercial attaché at the Vietnamese Embassy in Phnom Penh, said yesterday.
“More studies must be made on this dam before they announce the beginning of construction.”

However a recent Bloomberg statement said construction will start “before the end of this year”. The finance agency was reporting a statement made by Viraphonh Viravong, director-general of the Ministry of Energy and Mines’ Electricity Department, during an interview in Hanoi. According to human rights activists construction on the mega dam has been underway since late 2010, despite a government promise for further studies regarding environmental impact.
The project for the US$ 3.5 billion, 1.260-megawatt hydroelectric dam, 32 metres in height, is slated for a remote region of northern Laos, and would force the resettlement of up 2,100 villagers and affect tens of thousands of people. A Thai firm would build the dam, - the first of a planned series of 11 along the Mekong River - and precisely Thailand, the elephant homeland, is set to be the main beneficiary.
About 65 million people live along the Mekong River, which starts on the Tibetan plateau and flows through China’s Yunnan province before making its way to Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. The value of its fishery and fish farming has been estimated at around US$ 3 billion a year. Now the 4,880-kilometre waterway, considered the second most bio-diverse river in the world, is threatened by hydroelectric dam projects, like the Xayaburi dam, which could radically upset its ecological balance.
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