Thai firm Ch. Karnchang has begun significant work on the controversial Xayaburi dam in what environmental groups say is a blatant violation of Laos’s commitments to affected countries downstream.
International Rivers says so-called preparatory work has escalated into significant construction on the dam despite the 1995 Mekong agreement by Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam, which requires a study of trans-boundary impacts before any such work take place.
The work included constructing a concrete retaining wall, dredging to deepen and widen the river bed, relocating a village and increasing the labour force, Ame Trandem, Southeast Asia program director of International Rivers, said yesterday.
“They’ve continued to say this is all preparatory work, but what we noticed and what villagers told us in the area is that everything has up-scaled in the past two months,” she said. “What Ch. Karnchang is doing right now is violating the 1995 Mekong agreement, and they’re violating the trust of neighbouring countries.”
Ch. Karnchang had also broken promises to resettled residents from Houay Souy village to provide agricultural land and free electricity and power for a year, as well as failing to complete building houses as agreed compensation, Trandem said.
She called for urgent intervention by the Laotian government to stop the expanded construction before it inevitably impacted on the river’s fisheries and eco-systems in downstream countries such as Cambodia.
Two impact studies Laos has used to claim that a redesigned version of the 1,260-megawatt, US$3.8 billion dam would have no impact on the environment have been decried by environmental groups for failing to examine trans-boundary impacts.
The four governments of the Mekong River Commission are due to meet in Vientiane, the capital of Laos, tomorrow.
Te Navuth, secretary-general of the Cambodian National Mekong Committee, said that if photos provided by International Rivers were genuine, the construction was a breach of agreements to halt construction until downstream impacts had been examined.
“In April, we sent a letter to them already asking them to stop construction, so we are surprised at seeing these photos. It is not in line with what we agreed,” he said.
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