Laos assures riverside Thais on dam impact

Laos assures riverside Thais on dam impact

Pak Beng project will bring benefit, they say

The Pak Beng dam site, now and in the future via an artist's sketch. (via Radio Free Asia)
The Pak Beng dam site, now and in the future via an artist's sketch. (via Radio Free Asia)

CHIANG RAI: Laos has assured the Pak Beng hydropower dam that is to be built on the lower Mekong River will have no adverse impact on local people living on the Thai side of the river.

Laotian officials and Datang (Lao) Pak Beng Hydropower Co Ltd, the developer, met the Rak Chiang Khong Conservation Group and residents recently to allay fears about the project's possible impact.

Jansawaeng Bunnong, the director-general of the Laos Energy Policy and Planning Department, assured locals that Pak Beng dam, in Oudomxay province in northern Laos, had undergone proper procedures, including public hearings conducted under the Procedures for Notification, Prior Consultation and Agreement (PNPCA) of the Mekong River Commission (MRC). Other processes related to the project were undertaken in Thailand and results submitted to the MRC, he said.

Local and international experts in various fields had warned that corrective measures should be taken to mitigate harmful changes to river flow, such as incorporating fish migration passages and sediment releases.

"This project is a collaboration between Laos and Thailand which will benefit both countries. Ninety percent of the power will be exported to Thailand and boost the Thai industry, while construction materials have also been bought from Thailand,'' Mr Jansawaeng said.

The Rak Chiang Khong conservation group, which represents villagers from eight riverside communities, previously lodged a complaint with the Supreme Administrative Court against Thai authorities for failing to provide them adequate forums to voice their grievances.

The group accused the Department of Water Resources, the department's director-general and Thai National Mekong Committee of not providing sufficient information during three previously arranged public meetings.

The conservation group lodged a similar complaint in June last year but the Central Administrative Court dismissed the plea.

Residents in Chiang Khong district said their farming operations and communities will suffer grave damage from rising water levels and the broader impact of the dam on ecology. However, the developer claims the project will have little impact on the ecosystem. The dam will produce 912 megawatts of electricity when completed in 2023. Waterways will be developed to facilitate travel by ship and boost tourism.

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