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Xayaburi dam decision looms

Xayaburi dam decision looms

A non-governmental organisation said the recently released environmental impact assessment for a controversial hydroelectric dam planned for the Mekong river in Laos was fatally flawed, while a regional decision on the issue looms.

Ame Trandem, Mekong campaigner for International Rivers, said the assessment conducted for the Thai company CH Karnchang Public Company Limited, which owns a majority stake in the US$3.78 billion project, was “appallingly irresponsible and reckless”.

“The EIA report lacks sufficient technical information, is riddled with analytical holes and only considers impacts 10km downstream of the project, despite studies commissioned by the Mekong River Commission recognising that impacts will be felt basin-wide,” Trandem said in a statement yesterday.

A study by the Mekong River Commission released in October recommended that decisions about whether to build dams on the lower Mekong should be delayed for another decade, citing inadequate information and warning of devastating impacts to fish and the environment as well as the millions who depend on river.

The company’s assessment was only made public days ago, despite an impending decision on the dam.

Trandem said Cambodians would be deeply affected by the project’s impact on fish, a source of an estimated 83 percent of meat protein in the Kingdom.

“There should never be a trade-off between electricity and food. That’s not development.”

Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam will meet on March 24 in Sihanoukeville, with an official decision slated for April 22.

Te Navuth, secretary-general of the Cambodia National Mekong Committee, said Cambodia has no official position on the Xayaburi dam at the moment, but indicated the need for more time and information about its impact.

“We do not have a position yet because we are just receiving the information,” he said.

“I think Cambodia and Vietnam are still considering the study, the report provided by Laos and the concerns related to downstream and the potential impact.”

“To me it seems that we need more information to answer to several issues like fisheries, fish migration between upstream and downstream, the issue of global [climate] change [and] the issue of erosion,” he said.

Laos has indicated however that it plans to move ahead with the project whether it has full regional support or not.

CH Karnchang released a statement this month stating that it had already been granted a concession for the project by the Laos government, and expects commercial operation to begin in 2019.

In a statement delivered by the Laos Joint Committee of the Mekong River Commission at a meeting last month in Phnom Penh and obtained by The Post, Laos said the project “will not have any significant impact on the Mekong mainstream”.

Thus, there was “no need for any extension of time” for the decision, which would be Laos’.

“The final decision as how to further proceed with the project development would of course be solely subject to the Lao PDR Government”.