Work on Xayaburi dam suspended

By Chris Sleight10 May 2012

The government of Laos has suspended work on the controversial Xayaburi dam on the Mekong River. Preparatory work on the 1.26GW power project began last year, despite strong opposition from the three other countries that make up the Mekong River Commission (MRC), Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam.

The dam would be the first to be built on the Lower Mekong basin, and the four countries had previously agreed that any development of this resource would be agreed through the MRC. However, last year saw Laos unilaterally push ahead and award the US$ 3.5 billion engineering procurement and construction (EPC) contract for the project to Thai contractor CH Karnchang.

Opponents of the schemes said the environmental impact assessment was inadequate, and both Cambodia and Vietnam expressed concerns about the downstream effects of the project. The MRC has said construction of the dam should not go ahead until further studies have been carried out.

According to local media reports, some preparatory work for the project has been carried out, including the construction of access roads and accommodation. However, no work on the dam or power plant itself has started.

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