Despite last week’s report of suspended construction on the Xayaburi dam, Laos government officials continue to allow “preparatory work” on the controversial project.
Led by Thai construction company Ch. Karnchang, the $3.5 billion hydropower dam would be the first to cross the lower Mekong River. Thailand would use about 95 percent of the electricity generated.
In response to protests from environmental groups and neighboring countries, Foreign Minister Thongloun Sisoulith declared the project halted at last week’s ASEAN Regional Forum in the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh.
Although government officials deny active construction of the site - conflicting reports by the Phnom Pehn Post published on Monday reveal work is underway.
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Conservationists are worried the 1,260 megawatt dam will harm migratory fish and the livelihood of fisherman and communities near the river. According to International Rivers, around 2,100 people would be resettled, and more than 202,000 people living in the dam's area would suffer impacts due to the loss of agricultural land and riverbank gardens, an end to gold panning in the river, and worsened access to the forest resources.
The Xayaburi dam will also have a significant effect on the biodiversity of the river ecosystem, and the fisheries within the larger Mekong river basin. Additional reports from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), indicate the dam would drive the already endangered Mekong Giant Catfishto extinction.
According to conservationists against the build, in order for the project to be completely suspended – all construction would have to be terminated and the Thai government would be forced to withdraw funding.