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Xayaburi study locks in funding

120423_03

Japan has agreed to fund a study into what negative effects the controversial Xayaburi hydro dam project in Laos could have on Mekong River communities, a Cambodia National Mekong Committee official said yesterday.

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Te Navuth, the committee’s secretary-general, said Mekong River Commission (MRC) member states, including Cambodia, had agreed in December that another study was needed before the 1,260-megawatt dam project could begin.

“Mekong countries and Japan have agreed to carry out this study,” he said, referring to discussions at the Japan-Mekong Summit in Tokyo over the weekend. “Before, we didn’t have this statement clearly.”

Thai development firm Ch.Karnchang announced it had begun construction work on the dam on March 15 after signing a US$2.4 billion contract with the Xayaburi Power Company, the Post reported last week.

Sin Niny, permanent vice-chairman of CNMC, was reported elsewhere saying Cambodia had the right to file a legal complaint if Laos began the project on its own.

Under a 1995 agreement, a host country must consult MRC members of such projects before proceeding.

Te Navuth said legal action against Laos might be hasty.

“I don’t think [Cambodia] would do this. [The agreement with Japan] is a new positive development . . . that will promote cooperation of the member states.”

But concern remained over whether the dam project, the first of its kind on the Lower Mekong, had begun, he said.

“We have reports of some preliminary constructions,” Te Navuth said. “Cambodia will send an official to Laos. We have sent several letters . . . [asking them] not to proceed with any work. I think they will consider this [new study],” he said, adding they had been unresponsive in the past.

Save the Mekong spokesperson Meach Mean said he was concerned about the project.

“Without a study, we do not know what ... the damage will be,” he said. “We ask the Lao government to postpone [the dam project]. Please, Laos, respect the 1995 agreement.”

Sin Niny and the Japanese Embassy in Phnom Penh could not be reached.

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

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