With time running short before Laos’s Xayaburi hydropower dam enters its final, potentially irreversible stages of construction, a group of NGOs has made another call for its suspension.
In a joint declaration released today, 39 organisations based in Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand and Australia set a one-year deadline for Thailand and Laos to call off the 1,285-megawatt hydropower dam and demanded Thailand, which is set to buy 95 per cent of the generated electricity, cancel its power purchase agreement.
The statement comes just days ahead of the international Mekong Summit where Lower Mekong country heads are expected to discuss regional waterway cooperation.
“Cambodia and Vietnam have never approved of the Xayaburi dam,” Kraisak Choonhavan, former chairman of Thailand’s Senate Foreign Affairs Committee says in today’s statement. “The Mekong Summit is the critical moment for Cambodia and Vietnam to take a strong stance and make their concerns heard loud and clear before it’s too late.”
Last week, Laos told the Post the $3.8 million project was already 30 per cent built and on track for completion in 2019.
But construction of the dam remains a divisive issue, with Laos unilaterally declaring intergovernmental discussions through the Mekong River Commission over, even as its neighbours requested trans-boundary assessments.
“It is not too late for the Thai banks funding the Xayaburi dam to re-evaluate the project, in order to see how the potential costs far outweigh potential benefits from a dam that Thailand neither needs . . . nor should they want to be a catalyst of a regional dispute in the era of closer ASEAN integration and cooperation,” Marc Goichot, WWF’s sustainable hydropower expert, said.
NGOs have stressed the importance of reinstating regional dialogue before the first mainstream hydropower project causes irreparable harm.
“It’s important the governments speak out about what Laos has done and make a commitment to good faith dialogue so this issue never happens again,” said Ame Trandem, Southeast Asia coordinator for International Rivers.