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Dam report decried

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Construction equipment on a road leading to the site of a controversial proposed dam in Xayaburi province of Laos in April this year.

An environmental group has accused the Lao government of using a report prepared by a consulting firm to “greenwash” the proposed US$3.8 billion Xayaburi hydro-power dam on the Mekong River in a “desperate bid” to gain regional approval for the controversial project.

International Rivers said in a statement yesterday the report, prepared by Pöyry Energy AG - whose parent company is based in Finland - acknowledged uncertainties about the trans-boundary impact of the dam but nevertheless recommended that it be built.

The group said the report stated neighbouring countries’  concerns had been addressed.

“The Pöyry report sidesteps science and relies instead on guesswork, making it an unsuitable basis for decision-making on the Xayaburi Dam,” Ame Trandem, Southeast Asia program director for International Rivers, said in the statement.

Representatives from Pöyry Energy AG could not be reached for comment yesterday.

The Lao government comm-issioned the report in May after agreeing to delay the project following concerns raised by Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam at an April meeting of the Mekong River Commission, a body established under a 1995 agreement that requires the four countries to consult on projects that could affect the river.

The three countries, along with environmentalists, have expressed concern about the dam’s potential impact on water levels and fish stocks in the Mekong Basin.

According to International Rivers’ statement, the report by Pöyry listed more than 40 scientific and technical studies that still needed to be completed and the group identified 15 MRC requirements the project did not comply with.

Daovong Phonekeo, deputy director of the department of electricity at the Lao Ministry of Energy and Mines, was unable to comment. Other officials could not be reached.

MRC communications offi-cer Surasak Glahan said by email the MRC was still reviewing Pöyry’s report.

Te Navuth, secretary-general of the Cambodia National Mekong Committee, said he had not yet received the report from the Lao government.

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