A NETWORK of Thai people living in provinces along the Mekong River yesterday lodged a petition with the Administrative Court in Bangkok, seeking an injunction on the power-purchasing agreement of the controversial Xayaburi hydro-power project in Laos.
“Today’s plea for an injunction follows the decision by Thailand’s Supreme Administrative Court on June 24 to accept the network’s right to bring a lawsuit challenging the legality of the Xayaburi Dam’s purchasing agreement in Thailand, even though the project is located in Laos” said Sor Rattanamanee Polkla, a lawyer and coordinator from the Community Resource Centre.
“Given the transboundary environmental and social risks associated with the project, all construction and further investment should be halted until the court has made a final decision,” he said.
The Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat) signed the agreement in 2011 to buy 95 per cent of electricity generated by the Xayaburi Dam, and this was then approved by Thai government agencies.
Without the Thai purchasing deal, the Xayaburi Dam would not be economically viable. However, Egat recently acknowledged it does not need the electricity generated by the project. Independent studies have found that Egat had grossly over-estimated the amount of electricity Thailand needed, and that it also had not studied potentially cheaper or greener electricity generation options.
The Supreme Administrative Court has already acknowledged the potential transboundary impacts of the Xayaburi Dam, ruling that: “the [Xayaburi] project may cause impacts to the environment, water quality and quantity, the flow of water, and the ecological balance of the Mekong basin as well as other transboundary impacts on riparian countries, particularly local communities in the eight riparian provinces of the Kingdom of Thailand, which may bear extensive impacts to environmental quality, public health, sanitation, livelihood, and other community interests.”
Egat has not conducted an environmental impact assessment in Thailand for the Xayaburi Dam, nor has it conducted adequate public consultations, the group said.
The project is also causing regional conflict among neighbouring Mekong countries. Recommendations by both Cambodian and Vietnamese governments have called for a delays on further decisions on Mekong mainstream dams, including the Xayaburi Dam, until the completion of the Mekong River Commission’s Council study and Vietnam’s Mekong Delta study.