Northeast residents oppose 6th Laos dam project

Northeast residents oppose 6th Laos dam project

Thai residents living in eight northeastern provinces along the Mekong River are opposed to Laos' plans to construct a new hydropower dam on the Mekong River over fears it will threaten the river system, where seasonal flooding supports fisheries and regional agriculture.

The protest comes as Laos submitted its plan to build the Sanakham hydropower plant with the Mekong River Commission (MRC), an intergovernmental agency that works with regional governments.

Opponents say Thais living along the Mekong River will be deeply affected by the dam.

Aomboon Thipsuda, who represents Thais living in northeastern provinces along the Mekong River banks, expressed shock after seeing plans to move forward with the dam on the MRC's website.

Ms Aomboon said the project, which is being initiated by a Chinese company, is unnecessary, adding previously completed dams have caused serious damage to people and the environment. She added that it would aggravate the already tough situation for impoverished people in the region.

Son Champadok, a fisherman in Ubon Ratchathani, said the river conditions had recently deteriorated, with the water increasingly muddy and fishing disrupted, similar to what happened when the Xayaburi dam and others were previously built upstream.

"This may not be a good sign," she said.

According to the MRC's website, the draft proposal for the dam was first submitted in September of last year, shortly after a similar project was submitted for Luang Prabang.

The dam is set to be located 2 kilometres from the Thai-Lao border and 25km from Sanakham town in Laos, which is opposite Chiang Khan district in Loei province.

The 684 megawatt dam, valued at approximately US$2.1 billion (67.5 billion baht), will be developed by Datang Sanakham Hydropower company, a subsidiary of China's Datang International Power Generation Co, the MRC said.

Hydropower development is central to the Lao government's plan to export around 20,000 megawatts of electricity to its neighbours by 2030 and the latest project would be the sixth proposal of nine planned mainstream Mekong dams inside Laos.

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