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Water minister urges Laos to halt Xayaburi

Water minister urges Laos to halt Xayaburi

Cambodia has urged Laos to halt construction of the controversial Xayaburi hydro dam project in the country’s north, a letter obtained by the Post yesterday reveals.

“Preliminary construction on Xayaburi dam has continued despite the lack of regional agreement,” Minister of Water Resources and Cambodia National Mekong Committee chairman Lim Kean Hor wrote in the letter sent to Laos Environment Minister Noulinh Sinbandhit last week.

“To my opinion, no construction of the Xayaburi dam should proceed while further study is under way as it would violate the Mekong spirit, trust and goodwill of neighbouring countries.”

Thai development company Ch.Karnchang announced on April 17 that it had signed a construction contract to build the 1,260-megawatt dam.

A construction date listed on its website suggested construction may have begun on March 15, despite Mekong River Commission members Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam agreeing in December that a study was needed into the project’s potential impact.

“A big and positive step in this development [was] recently achieved at the fourth Mekong-Japan Summit,” the letter states, referring to Japan agreeing to help fund such a study.

“I would like to seek Your Excellency’s kind cooperation . . . in halting the preliminary construction and in awaiting the result of the further study.”

Noulinh Sinbandhit could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Member countries met for the first day of the MRC’s Mekong 2 Rio International Conference on Transboundary River Basin Management in Phuket, Thailand, yesterday.

Surasak Glahan, communications officer with the MRC secretariat in Laos, said although the Xayaburi dam project had not been on the forum’s agenda, the issue of hydropower development had been discussed.

The international coalition Save the Mekong announced yesterday it had sent letters to the MRC urging it to confirm whether official approval had been given for the dam to be built.

“The CEO is to reply once this conference is over,” Surasak Glahan said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Shane Worrell at [email protected]

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