Mekong Utility Watch

Mekong Utility Watch: The Xayaburi dam

(February 25, 2011) Recent news coverage about the proposed Xayaburi dam in Laos is summarized below.

Tuoitrenews.vn, February 22, 2011, “Laos should stop dam project: Vietnam conference”

At a meeting of the Mekong River Commission (MRC) on Feb. 14, Cambodian representatives supported the suggestion by international experts to postpone building the Xayaburi dam by 10 years.

Meanwhile, representatives of Thailand said Laos had not yet provided concerned countries with enough information about the project, especially concerning the cross-border impacts of the dam project.

If built as planned, the dam will be put into operation in 2019.

The deadline for all effected countries to submit their formal opinions regarding the dam project is April 22, 2011.

According to the design blueprint, the Xayaburi dam will be 820 meters long and 32.6 meters high. The area to be submerged is 49 square kilometers and the dam’s flood discharge capacity is 47,500 cubic meters per second.

The dam project’s investor is Thailand’s SEAN & Ch. Karnchang Public Co., Ltd. It is expected that part of the power from the Xayaburi project will be used to meet Laos’ demand while the remaining power will be bought by Thailand.

Read the full story here [PDFver here]

Supalak Ganjanakhundee, The Nation, January 24, 2011, “Call for data on controversial dam”

Chiang Rai residents have called on the authorities to reveal more details about the strategic environmental assessment for the proposed Xayaburi dam in northern Laos. The Xayaburi dam will affect a huge number of people, as well as the ecology of the Mekong River.

Read the full story here [PDFver here]

Van Nam, The Saigon Times Daily, January 17, 2011, “Scientists object to Xayaburi hydropower project”

Scientists, who gathered at a meeting organized in Can Tho City, said that if Laos builds a 1,260-MW hydropower plant on the upper reaches of the Mekong River, the livelihood of millions of people in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta would be at stake. They explained that the water flow will dwindle and salt intrusion will increase, leading to the reduction of annual output of agriculture and aquatic products.

According to the International Center for Environmental Management, if more hydropower plants are built in the upper reaches of the Mekong River, the amount of alluvium flowing to Vietnam’s Mekong Delta will tumble by 75%. In addition, the output of aquatic products in the same area will experience a dramatic drop – between 200,00 and 400,000 tons per year.

Read the full story here [PDFver here]

Phnom Penh Post, September 30, 2010, “Laos’ Xayaburi dam impact potentially ‘catastrophic’”

“Cambodia will be one of the hardest hit countries from the construction of any, including Xayaburi, of the proposed 11 lower Mekong mainstream dams,” said Marc Goichot, a senior adviser on sustainable infrastructure at WWF Greater Mekong.

“These impacts are potentially catastrophic, and can include riverbank erosion, impacting the riverside homes of millions of Cambodians.”

Read the full story here [PDFver here]

Jonathan Watts, The Guardian, September 24, 2010, “Laos sees big fish as small price to pay for hydropower”

In a submission to the Mekong River Commission (MRC) on Wednesday, Laos said it wants to build a 1.26GW-hydropower plant at Sayabouly in northern Laos to generate foreign exchange income.

If approved, about 90% of the electricity would be sold to neighbours Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia.

Four of the world’s 10 biggest freshwater fish migrate up the Mekong to spawn. Among them is the Mekong giant catfish, which is the size of a bull shark, and the Mekong stingray, which can weigh up to 600kg.

The dam – which is being designed by Swiss company Colencois and Thai contractor Karnchang – is also likely to affect the flow of nutrients along a delta that sustains tens of millions of people.

Laos authorities insist the dam will be designed to mitigate the impact on food security, ecosystems and wildlife, but officials acknowledge that no solution is ideal for the environment.

Read the full story here [PDFver here]

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