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Xayaburi construction forging ahead

Construction of the main structure of the supposedly on-hold Xayaburi dam could begin by the end of this year, the Thai company contracted to build it said yesterday.

Ch Karnchang chief executive Plew Trivisvavet said preparatory work at the site of the proposed US$3.8 billion, 1,285-megawatt dam in northern Laos was being undertaken – with the aim of beginning to build the main dam structure on the Lower Mekong River by December.

“We have entered the area for some relocation work and to prepare for the construction of the reservoir,” Plew told Reuters. 

“We haven’t received a formal letter from the Lao government that we should suspend or put the project on hold.”

Various statements from Lao government officials, including Foreign Minister Thongloun Sisoulith, have said only preparatory work had been approved pending further studies of environment impacts on countries such as Cambodia.

Kirk Herbertson, Southeast Asia policy co-ordinator for International Rivers, said even initial construction could disrupt fish habitats and sediment flow.

“If you look at the 1995 Mekong Agreement and international law, they do not make a distinction between preparatory work and final structural work,” he said. “The Laos government is actually making an artificial distinction about this.”

Thongloun could not be reached for comment yesterday.

To contact the reporter on this story: Shane Worrell at shane.worrell@phonmpenhpost.com

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