Fight against Xayaburi Dam goes to court
Conservationists and residents from eight provinces along the Mekong River yesterday lodged a petition with the Administrative Court against the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT), the Energy Ministry and Cabinet over their involvement in the Xayaburi dam, proposed by the Lao government.They claim the agencies illegally allowed Egat to sign a pact to buy power from the controversial dam, chairperson of the conservation network, Niwat Roikaew, said. These state agencies failed to inform the public of environmental and social impacts from the dam, he said.
The 2007 Constitution requires concerned agencies to open a public hearing on any controversial project that may pose serious implications for the environment, society and public health, he said.
Some 70 conservationists and local residents gathered at the court yesterday while 37 representatives of the group signed the complaint. They came mostly from the mekong provinces of Chiang Rai, Loei, Nong Khai, Bung Kan, Nakhon Phanom, Mukdahan, Amnat Charoen and Ubon Ratchathani, located up- and downstream of the dam.
Laos has allowed preliminary building of the Xayaburi Dam to start on the mainstream of the river about 150km from Luang Prabang. The dam, if it goes ahead, would generate 1,260 MW of power mainly for Thailand.
Authorities in Vientiane claim the project has been temporarily suspended because downstream countries - also members of the mekong River Commission - raised concern over possible negative impacts.
Lao officials say they are conducting further studies to minimise any such impact, but the conservationists said construction work has never stopped.
Lawyer Rattanamanee Polkla said the purchasing contract to buy electricity from the dam was illegal. The group has asked the court to nullify the contract and force the concerned agencies to follow the constitutional requirements, she said.
The court received the petition but will make a decision later on whether it has legal grounds to try the case, the lawyer said.