US urges caution on Laos dam plans

2012-11-06 12:07
Laos is to push ahead with a major dam. (AP)

Laos is to push ahead with a major dam. (AP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Washington - The US urged caution on plans by Laos to build a multibillion-dollar dam that has raised environmental concerns from neighbouring nations, saying its impact was still "unknown".

The $3.8bn hydroelectric project at Xayaburi, led by Thai group CH Karnchang, has sharply divided the four Mekong nations - Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand - who rely on the river system for fish and irrigation.

"Our own experience has made us acutely aware of the economic, social and environmental impacts that large infrastructure can have over the long-term," the State Department said in a statement that nonetheless recognized the "important role" dams can play in helping advance economic growth.

"The extent and severity of impacts from the Xayaburi dam on an ecosystem that provides food security and livelihoods for millions are still unknown."

Laotian deputy energy minister Viraphonh Viravong earlier said that the government would hold a groundbreaking ceremony on Wednesday and begin work on the dam later this week.

Mekong River Commission

Building work on the main project has been stalled for about 18 months over concerns relating to its environmental impact.

Viraphonh said some aspects of the dam's design had been changed to "reassure neighbouring countries", but he insisted that objections would not derail plans to finish the project by the end of 2019.

"We are concerned that construction is proceeding before impact studies have been completed," the State Department said.

It urged stakeholders to voice their concerns through the Mekong River Commission, whose Mekong nation members have not reached consensus on whether the project should proceed.

The mooted 1 260MW dam, the first of 11 on the key waterway, has become a symbol of the potential risks of hydropower projects in the region.

Communist Laos, one of the world's most under-developed nations, believes the dam will help it become "the battery of Southeast Asia" by selling electricity to its richer neighbours.

"We have a strong interest in the sustainable management of the Mekong River, and we view our robust engagement as a sign of our strong commitment toward a lasting and positive relationship with the region," the US statement said.

"We hope that the government of Laos will uphold its pledge to work with its neighbours in addressing remaining questions regarding Xayaburi. We encourage the MRC countries to continue to work together to realize their shared vision of an economically prosperous, socially just and environmentally sound Mekong River basin."
Read more on:    environment

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


Millions of plastic particles in our food!

Scientists and researchers believe that almost five million tons of plastic is dumped in the oceans every year and it’s affecting our food.



Plastic on your plate
Prince George the green prince?
Lean, green, drifiting machine
One man's $1 million vision for an eco Africa

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts

Trying to keep time for your social commitments and friendships as well as taking care of work and health obligations can be more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.