Southeast Asia Commission Postpones Decision on Mekong Dam

Posted December 8th, 2011 at 7:35 am (UTC-5)
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Government ministers from four Southeast Asian countries on Thursday decided to postpone a decision on whether to endorse the construction of a controversial hydroelectric dam on the Lower Mekong River in Laos.

The Mekong River Commission said after meeting Thursday in Cambodia that further study was needed to assess the “sustainable development and management” of the $3.5 billion Xayaburi Dam.

Laos, one of the poorest nations in the world, expects a huge economic benefit from selling most of the dam's 1,260-kilowatts of hydroelectric power to Thailand.

But Vietnam and Cambodia, along with environmental groups, fear the project will disrupt fish migration patterns, affecting the 60 million people who depend on the river for their livelihoods.

The MRC – which consists of officials from Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam – said they would approach the government of Japan and other international partners to conduct further study on the dam's impact.

Laos could go ahead with the project even without the group's approval.

The commission's statement on Thursday said its decision to postpone the decision showed that the group was committed to working together to “bring about economic development without compromising the sustainability of livelihoods of peoples and the ecology.”

Last week, an international petition from more than 100 countries called for Laos and Thai authorities to cancel the project.