Lao PM says more study for controversial Mekong dam

Sai Gon Giai Phong 9 May 2011

Special Report

By Thuy Nguyen

Lao Prime Minister Thoongsing Thammavong has told his Vietnamese counterpart Nguyen Tan Dung that Laos had decided to postpone the construction of the controversial Xayaburi hydropower project, and would conduct more environmental impact assessments with international experts.

The Lao PM announced this during his meeting with the Vietnamese PM on May 7 on the sidelines of the 18th ASEAN Summit in Jakarta, Indonesia, the Vietnamese Government website reported.

Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung (L) meets with Lao Prime Minister Thoongsing Thammavong on May 7 on the sidelines of the 18th ASEAN Summit in Jakarta, Indonesia (Photo: Vietnamese Government website)
Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung (L) meets with Lao Prime Minister Thoongsing Thammavong on May 7 on the sidelines of the 18th ASEAN Summit in Jakarta, Indonesia (Photo: Vietnamese Government website)

The website said the two leaders agreed to instruct relevant agencies to conduct joint research within the Mekong River Commission framework with the possible participation of experienced and prestigious international scientists to seek firm scientific ground for future decisions regarding the issue.

The Vietnamese PM thanked the Lao Party and Government for this important decision, the website reported.

Meanwhile, the developer of the US$3.8 billion dam on the Mekong River – Thai company Ch. Karnchang – had earlier said preliminary construction works “somewhat progressed” in the second half of 2010, while the prior consultation process for the dam, which is compulsory, is currently going on.

Ch. Karnchang said this in its annual report 2010, adding that its investment in Xayaburi Power Company Limited in 2010 amounted to 760 million baht last year.

This company has an initial registered capital of US$25 million, equivalent to 800 million baht, with Ch. Karnchang holding 95 percent of shares, the report said. In July 2010, Ch. Karnchang negotiated a tariff agreement with the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand, which would buy electricity from the Xayaburi project, the report added.

Prior Consultation Process

Under a deal signed by Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam in 1995 to create the Mekong River Commission, the four Mekong countries agreed to consult one another whenever one of them planned a major dam project. No country can veto another's plans, the 1995 agreement says.

The four riparian countries met on April 19, 2011 in the Laotian capital of Vientiane to debate whether Laos should proceed with the 1,260-megawatt dam. The meeting failed to come to a common conclusion on how to proceed with the project, so the four countries had to agree to put the problem up to the ministerial level.

At the meeting, Vietnam expressed its deep and serious concerns for the lack of adequate, appropriate and comprehensive assessments of transboundary and cumulative impacts that the project may cause to the downstream, especially in the Mekong Delta. Vietnam recommended deferment of this and other planned hydropower projects on the Mekong mainstream for at least 10 years.

The Lao delegation at the meeting insisted there was need to extend the process since this option would not be practical, while transboundary environmental impacts on other riparian countries are unlikely.

http://www.saigon-gpdaily.com.vn/Special_report/2011/5/92359/