Laos to build 10 hydro-power dams over next five years

The Nation 28 June 2011

By Deutsche Presse-Agentur

Vientiane (dpa) – Laos plans to build 10 hydroelectric dams over the next five years as part of plans to become the "battery of South-East Asia," state media reports said Friday.

The 10-plant goal was set in the country's 7th National Socio-Economic Development Plan for 2011 to 2015, scheduled for approval by the National Assembly Friday, the Vientiane Times reported.

Of the 10, five are currently under construction. The Nam Ngum 5 in Vientiane province is 60 per cent complete, the Theun Hinboun expansion in Khammouane province is 78 per cent complete, the Nam Xong in Vientiane province is 30 per cent finished, the Nam Nhone in Luang Namtha is 91 per cent complete, and the Xekhaman 3 in Xekong province is 90 per cent complete, according to the plan awaiting the assembly's approval.

Laos already has 16 operational hydropower plants with a total capacity of 2,000 megawatts. The government has granted approval for feasibility studies on construction of 73 power plant projects over the past decade.

Some projects, such as the Xayaburi hydro-electric plant planned on the Mekong River, have run into regional opposition.

Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam have called for delay of the dam's construction on the grounds that it could impact downstream fisheries and sedement flows. To date, only China has built dams on the Mekong River, the longest waterway in South-East Asia.

Hydroelectricity is the largest investment sector in Laos, having attracted 4 billion dollars over the past decade

The land-locked communist country, one of the world's poorest, earned 146 million dollars from exports of electricity to neighbouring Thailand during the first six months of the 2001/11 fiscal year, which started on October 1.