Laos Gives Go-Ahead to Build Controversial Dam

Posted November 6th, 2012 at 12:10 am (UTC-5)
Leave a comment

The United States says it is concerned at Laos' plan to start building a controversial dam that has raised environmental concerns from neighboring countries.

The State Department said in a statement Monday that the impact of the $3.5 billion Xayaburi hydroelectric dam on the Mekong River area is “still unknown.”

Laos, one of Asia's poorest countries, is pushing forward with the Thailand-backed project, despite objections by Cambodia and Vietnam, which say it could affect fish stocks and farming along the nearly 5,000 kilometer river.

Deputy Energy Minister Viraphonh Viravong says the groundbreaking ceremony will take place Wednesday. He said some of the dam's design has been changed to address concerns, saying he does not believe the project will adversely impact the river.

There has been no immediate reaction from the governments of Cambodia or Vietnam.

The dam project is part of a plan by Laos to boost its economy by selling electricity to neighboring countries. Most of the electricity generated by the dam will be purchased by Thailand.

The Mekong River Commission, a regional regulatory agency, has not reached consensus on whether the project should proceed.

The U.S. State Department said it was concerned “that construction is proceeding before impact studies have been completed.” It urged stakeholders to continue to use the MRC to voice their concerns about the project, saying the U.S. has a strong interest in the “sustainable management of the Mekong River.”