Laos approves Mekong dam despite objections | Bangkok Post: news

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Laos approves Mekong dam despite objections

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  • Writer: Saritdet Marukatat, with agency reports
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VIENTIANE: The Lao government has approved the construction of the US$3.5-billion Xayaburi dam on the Mekong River despite objections from environmentalists, said a senior official Monday. 

"We will have a ground-breaking ceremony in Xayaburi on Wednesday," said Viraphonh Viravong, deputy minister of energy and mines.The ceremony will mark the beginning of work in the river bed, with construction on access roads and facilities already under way.The hydroelectric project is to be the first run-of-river dam to be built on the lower Mekong. Four dams have already been built on the upper Mekong in China. The project has been criticised by environmentalists, neighbouring countries and downstream riverside communities for its possible impact on the flow of sediments and fish migration.An organisation called the Network of Thai People in Eight Mekong Provinces held a flotilla protest Monday of 45 boats on the Thai side of the river in Nong Khai, across from Vientiane which is currently hosting the Asia-Europe Meeting that has drawn about 50 Asian and European leaders to the Lao capital."We want the visiting leaders to be aware of the Xayaburi dam project and the impact it is going to have on people living downstream," said the network's spokeswoman Pianporn Deetes."We've already seen a negative impact from the Chinese dams on the upper Mekong in terms of greater fluctuations in the river's flow."There are 10 more dams planned on the lower Mekong, Southeast Asia's longest river and one of the world's richest sources of fish, worth an estimated $2 billion per annum. Last December, members of the Mekong River Commission's council, consisting of water and environment ministers from Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam, urged a delay to allow further environmental research.In response, the Lao government and its chief partner in the project, Thailand's Ch Karnchang Plc, agreed to spend an additional $100 million to revamp the design of a fish ladder and sediment...

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