Despite the Ch Karnchang’s recent announcement that it had signed a Bt51.8-billion contract with Xayaburi Power Co, Viraphonh Viravong, director-general of the Ministry of Energy and Mines’ department of electricity, said there was no construction being done on the Mekong River.
He said only preparatory work is being done. “Preliminary work like roads, accommodation and preparing for the power plant when the Lao government approves the project have been under way for a while now.
The Lao government will wait for approval from the concerned countries,” Viraphonh told AFP in a telephone interview, adding that a new report on the expected impact had been submitted to Laos’ neighbours.
According to The Diplomat website, Viraphonh had reassured neighbouring countries at a recent conference in Phuket that Laos was taking the December agreement very seriously and would halt construction until a full independent environmental impact study is completed.
The project is expected to require a total investment of $3.5 billion. Set to generate 1,26-megawatts of power, this will be the biggest hydropower plant in the river. The plan has sparked worries over the ecological system of countries lower down the river.
In December, the Mekong River Commission – comprised of Cambodia, Thailand, Laos and Vietnam – said the dam project should not proceed until further studies on its impact were carried out.
Cash-strapped Laos plans to build up to 11 dams and become “the battery of Asia” by supplying hydropower electricity to neighbouring countries, initially Thailand. Xayaburi is one of these dams, located 150-kilometres downstream from Luang Prabang.