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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs   2 October 2013  

Laos informs neighbours on Mekong dams development

Laos has held bilateral talks with Thailand and Vietnam to inform them about the progress of construction of the US$3.5 billion Xayaboury hydropower project and the proposed Don Sahong dam in Champassak province.

A Lao delegation led by Viraphonh Viravong holds talks with Vietnamese counterparts during the 31st Asean Ministers on Energy Meeting in Bali last week.

The talks took place on the sidelines of the 31st Asean Ministers on Energy Meeting in Bali, Indonesia, last week. The aim of the talks was to ensure the neighbouring count ries understand and support these projects.

Deputy Minister of Energy and Mines, Viraphonh Viravong, told Vientiane Times Laos has done a number of studies and put measures in place to address the concerns of its neighbours.

“During the bilateral talks, we reported on the progress made in the construction of the Xayaboury hydropower project and informed our counterparts about how Laos redesigned the project to address the concerns of the MRC member countries,” he said.

“We also informed our two neighbours that we want to build the Don Sahong hydropower project, after studying it for a number of years. We appointed a third party to inspect the site and found that the project will have no impact on the river downstream.”

“We have studied the project scientifically, so we want our neighbours to understand and support the development.”

The Xayaboury dam is the first run-of-river hydropower project to be built in the lower Mekong basin. More than 8,000 people are employed in the construction of the 1,285MW power plant, of whom 5,840 are Lao and the rest Thais and foreigners.

According to the latest report from the developer, Xayaburi Power Co., Ltd. (XPCL), more than US$500 million has been spent on the project so far, or about 17 per cent of the total project cost.

The Xayaboury dam will not only play a significant role in driving economic growth in Laos but will also contribute to community development and poverty reduction in Xayaboury province.

Laos has considerable potential for hydropower development because the country has mountainous terrain and many rivers.

In remarks prepared for the 31st A sean Ministers on Energy Meeting, Viraphonh told fellow delegates “In order to exploit its large hydropower potential, Laos has embraced interconnections: firstly, to facilitate the export of power to neighbouring countries on a project-by-project basis and, ultimately, to more fully realise the goal of integrated system-to-system development and operations.”

He said hydropower policy is very important for the future development of Laos. “If we set out a proper policy on hydropower development, it will help to stimulate economic growth and poverty reduction efforts among the Lao people.”

In 2012, Laos' total installed capacity reached 3,200MW, of which about 75 per cent is exported to Thailand and Vietnam.

Nine power projects, with an installed capacity of 4,000MW, are currently under construction. Another 20 projects, adding 5,800MW, are in the final planning stages. After Xayaboury, another eight dams are planned for the Mekong mainstream in Laos.

It is expected that Laos' total installed capacity will reach 12,500MW by 2020, with about 85 percent available for power exchanges with Thailand, China, Vietnam and Cambodia.

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It is commonplace in journalism to write two types of articles at the transition point between the year that has passed and the New Year. As this writer qualifies as an “old hand” in observing Thailand with a track record dating back 14 years, it is time take a shot at what may unfold in Thailand in 2011.

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