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Don Sahong dam faces more problems

The Laotian government said yesterday that it would have the controversial Don Sahong dam undergo a formal process of prior consultation - a decision that will probably delay the project further.

"The government has already demonstrated that it is committed to developing the Don Sahong project in a responsible and sustainable manner," Deputy Minister of Energy and Mine told Mekong River Commission (MRC) meeting on Thursday.

Laos plans to build the dam in the mainstream part of the Mekong River in the southern province of Champasak. It will be located in the Siphandone (Khone Falls) area, less than 2 kilometres upstream of the Laos-Cambodia border.

However, the biggest concern of the other members of the MRC - namely Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam - is that the dam will block the migration of fish. Also, Vietnam and Cambodia, both of whom are downstream, would suffer from a drop in the flow of water, which would affect their fishery and agricultural sectors.

As per the agreement, Laos is required to notify all MRC members of its plan to build the 260MW capacity hydropower dam. The members have said they want the project to go through a prior consultation process, which would allow them to voice their concerns and provide more input in the study.

The prior consultation process requires a more comprehensive study of the project's environment and the social impact it might have. The process would take at least six months to complete.


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