Officials from Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand met in Vientiane yesterday to discuss Laos’s plans to build a US$3.8 billion hydropower dam in the Xayaburi province. However, no accord was reached and the decision on the Xayaburi dam has been postponed.
Article: The stalled battle for the future of the Mekong River [BBC, 20 Apr 2011]
Construction has been underway since November last year, but the dam has been strongly questioned by Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand. The three countries have raised concerns about the lack of adequate environmental studies into the dam’s impact on Mekong ecosystems and communities. Among the main concerns are that the dam could affect fish migration patterns and disrupt farming activities by exacerbating the problem of seawater seeping into farmland.
Background video: ‘Mekong Tipping Point’, an analysis of the impact of further dam construction on the Mekong [Stimson Center, 2009]
Article: World’s largest fish under threat of extinction [The Telegraph, 20 Apr 2011]
The Laotian government argues that the hydropower that the Xayaburi dam will generate is crucial for the economic development of landlocked Laos. Laos plans to sell most of the electricity generated to Thailand.
Article: Laos hydropower a ‘battery’ for power-hungry region [BBC, 10 Dec 2010]
The proposed dam is a test case for a 1995 agreement signed by Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam to share the river’s resources. The agreement called for a process of consultation on actions affecting the river and was seen as a major step toward greater cooperation. However, all four countries retain the right to build dams with or without agreement by neighbouring countries.
Background: read about the Mekong River Commission