ASEAN KEY DESTINATIONS
Mekong dam put on hold
Ch. Karnchang Plc (CK), Thailand's second largest contractor, said it had suspended work at the site of the 1,280- megawatt project pending the review of the environmental impact assessment (EIA) study.
"We have been informed by the government of Laos that it will hire independent consultants to review the EIA report of the Xayaburi dam," said Anukool Tuntimas, a company director and executive vice-president for human resources and general administration.
"Consequently, construction would be pending the completion of the additional report." He brushed aside a news report that the Laotian government had asked CK to finance the review. "I think this is some kind of misunderstanding," he said, adding that CK did not know how long the additional study would last, but that it took the company less than six months to finish the first EIA report.
"We have done our part and all processes required by law," Dr Anukool said. "Now we are waiting for the Laotian government to finish its work, so we can begin the construction of the project." Earlier, CK stated that work at the dam would start soon after the company signed a construction contract and loan agreements with banks to finance the project.
So far, the company has done some road construction near the dam, which is located 80 kilometres from Luang Prabang.
The Xayaburi dam is the most advanced project of 11 proposed dams on the Lower Mekong. Environmental groups have criticised the project for the potential damage they say it could do to ecosystems and river communities.
Vietnam, in particular, has proposed that the dam be deferred for a decade.
Daovong Phonekeo, deputy director-general of Laos's Department of Electricity, was quoted in a news report as saying that Laos would ask CK to finance the review of the project.
"We are delaying the project but not permanently," Mr Daovong said. "We are just discussing the process and then requesting the developer finance the additional review."
Laos wants its own study to verify the findings of the work of the Mekong River Commission (MRC), which served as the basis for countries to object to the dam.
"The cost of the review depends on how many experts we have to hire," he said. "The timing should be something like six to 12 months."
The MRC secretariat said that it had not been informed of any formal suspension of the project by the Laotian government and would not comment further until it had confirmation.
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