The decision to build the Xayaburi dam in Laos were postponed a week ago, announced the Mekong River Commission (MRC) Joint Committee, a regional organisation charged with promoting sustainable development of the Mekong River. However, opponents of the proposed dam accused the Lao government of allowing construction to begin before the approval process was complete.
One of Asia's least-developed countries, Laos hopes that the sale of dam-generated hydro-electricity to Thailand will bring much-needed economic regeneration to the country. However, Laos may find the environmental and political costs of going ahead with the dam outweigh the benefits.
Chairman of the Singapore Institute of International Affairs Simon Tay said after yesterday’s meeting, “Plans by Laos to build a dam on the upper Mekong were strongly questioned by other ASEAN states downstream on the river.
“Laos wants to generate electricity to sell, especially to Thailand, but the environmental costs will be high and can disrupt the societies and farming communities that depend on the river. How Asean neighbours approach the issue has wider implications.”