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  • » 07/07/2012, 00.00


    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.

    Vientiane (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Laos intends to continue the construction of the controversial Xayaburi dam, a mega hydro-electric plant, the center of controversy over the environmental impact on the Mekong and the people who live along the River. This according to official sources, Wednesday in Vientiane, who confirm the intention to respect the agreements signed with neighboring countries. In recent weeks, environmental groups have sounded the alarm: the main builder Ch Karnchang Pcl says the work would continue, despite assurances to the contrary announced - officially at least - by the Lao government in December last year. For environmentalists the dam would irreparably damage the fish and fishermen's lives. A few days ago entire villages in Cambodia  along the Mekong River, mounted protests.

    The Lao Deputy Minister for Energy Viraphonh Viravong declares that the government has kept its promises, promoting in-depth research about the subsurface of the valley of the Mekong. On behalf of the executive he ensures that the project will be developed in a "transparent" fashion, creating "one of the most modern dams in the world." To reach the goal the initial idea changes will be made to the original plans so that "85% of the fish can pass through" the system, in line with the "guidance provided by the Mekong River Commission."

    The project on the Xayaburi dam involves the construction of a hydroelectric plant to the tune of 3.5 billion dollars to reach a power supply of 1,260 megawatts, in a remote area in northern Laos. It involves the forced displacement of 2,100 villagers and will have serious consequences for tens of thousands of other people. The implementation is entrusted to a Thai company and the land of the elephants will benefit the most from the exchange. Laos plans to transform itself into the "battery of Southeast Asia." The Mekong River Commission (MRC) is calling for a 10 year moratorium on construction and a study published in February, showed that the dams can cause a drop of 300 thousand tons in fishery per year, with serious consequences for more than a million people, especially in Cambodia.

    About 65 million people live along the Mekong River - which rises in the Tibetan plateau and flows along the southern Chinese province of Yunnan, then into Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam - who survive on fishing (estimated 3 billion dollars worth per year) and fish farms. But now the river, 4,880 kilometers long and considered the 2nd richest in biodiversity in the world, is threatened by many hydroelectric dam projects, including the Xayaburi dam, which in September Laos has submitted to the Mekong River Commission (MRC).


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    See also

    25/02/2008 CHINA
    University scholars and environmentalists against Nu River dams
    Put on hold in 2004 by Premier Wen Jiabao, the project seems to be going ahead anyway. The area it will affect has been classified as a World Heritage site. Should the dams be built at least 50,000 people will be displaced to give way to construction.

    10/09/2014 CHINA - LAOS - CAMBODIA
    Maximum alert for floods on lower Mekong as Beijing opens dams
    The Jinghong dam can contain up to 600 million cubic meters of water and a capacity of 1,750 megawatts. Experts in Laos, Thailand and Cambodia carefully monitor the level of the river. High risk of flooding. But the government of Phnom Penh, a staunch ally of Beijing, denies the threat.

    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.

    14/09/2009 LAOS
    Polluting power plant to endanger the life of Laos’ elephants
    The Laotian government has approved a plan to develop a lignite mine and built a power plant in the Hongsa Valley, an area near the habitat of an important elephant population. Environmentalists and experts fear this will drive the pachyderms closer to extinction.

    16/09/2014 CAMBODIA - CHINA
    Protest over Sino-Cambodian dam: Phnom Penh arrests 11 activists
    They blocked a group of officials, including Chinese engineers, from visiting the site in for the proposed mega-dam. The police deny the arrest and speak of "invitation" for interrogation. Over the weekend monks and farmers held a hunger strike in front of the Chinese Embassy, dispersed by the authorities.

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