Laos stirs controversy with plan for fourth dam on Mekong
Vientiane has submitted notice about a hydropower project at Pak Lay in western Xayaburi province, upsetting villagers on both sides
The government of Laos has proposed that yet another dam should be built on the Mekong River’s midstream. Vientiane submitted an official notice to the Mekong River Commission with a detailed description of a hydropower project at Pak Lay in the country’s western Xayaburi province.
The new dam will be the fourth on the Mekong in Laos after another dam, also in Xayaburi, plus others at Pak Beng and Don Sahong.
The budget for the project is estimated at US$1.8 billion and reports indicate that the Lao government has granted a 30-year concession to develop it to two Chinese companies: the China National Electronics Import and Export Corporation and the Sinohydro Corporation.
Exports of electricity could become a major source of income for Laos, but the project has caused concern among environmental activists in Thailand. The Nation quoted Channarong Wongla of the Rak Chiang Khan (“Love Chiang Khan”) Conservation Group as saying that the project would have a negative impact on the Mekong’s ecology.
The dam would be built over the mainstream Mekong River around 11 kilometers upstream from the Thai border at Chiang Khan.
Channarong also mentioned dams on the Mekong further upstream in China, arguing that, “we are affected every year by fluctuating water flows” from those dams, and “if the Pak Lay dam is built it will create huge impacts on the livelihood of local people living along the Mekong River in northeastern Thailand.”
According to the Mekong River Commission Secretariat, the dam would generate 770 megawatts of electricity once it is built. But construction is not expected to start till 2022 and finish in 2029.