Mekong nations to meet on controversial Laos dam

AFP 6 December 2011

PHNOM PENH (AFP) - Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam hold high-level talks on Thursday to decide whether to approve a controversial proposed dam on the Mekong River fiercely opposed by environmentalists.

The US$3.8 billion (S$4.89 billion) Xayaburi project in Laos is the first of 11 dams planned for the mainstream lower Mekong, and activists warn that a green light could spell disaster for the roughly 60 million people who depend on the waterway.

Thailand, which has agreed to purchase some 95 per cent of the electricity generated by the dam, has already indicated it will not oppose the project at this week's environment ministers' meeting in the Cambodian city of Siem Reap.

But Vietnam and Cambodia, wary of the dam's impact on their farm and fishing industries, have expressed strong concern and are calling for more studies on the impact of the vast 1,260MW dam before it is allowed to go ahead.