Experts defend Xayaboury dam

July 17, 2012

Representatives from Swiss Poyry and French Compagnie Nationale du Rhone

The Xayaboury dam has been redesigned to address cross-border concerns, and will become a world leading modern hydropower plant, according to international hydropower plant experts.

Representatives from Swiss Poyry and French Compagnie Nationale du Rhone yesterday presented the latest redesign of the first dam in the lower Mekong basin, at a meeting at the Santi Resort and Spa in Luang Prabang.

Deputy Minister of Energy and Mines, Mr Viraphonh Viravong, presided over the half-day presentation session regarding the US$3.5 billion hydropower project, marking a milestone for the government as it makes the construction plans for the dam more transparent.

A number of representatives of Mekong River Commission countries, development partners in Laos, and journalists attended the meeting to better understand the government’s policy on dam construction, and its planned measures to address the negative impacts of the 1,200MW power plant in Laos.

According to a presentation from the consultants, the Xayaboury dam is a run-of-the- river dam, meaning it does not store large amounts of water in a reservior. According to the consultants, the dam will therefore not diminish water flows into countries downstream on the Mekong.

The dam has also been redesigned to minimise negative environmental impacts, after a number of environmentalists from Cambodia and Vietnam expressed concerns about the dam trapping fish and causing a down flow of sediment.

The consultant confirmed that the redesign of the dam will ensure that fish can travel up and down along the Mekong River, through a number of fish passing facilities such as fish ladders and lifts.

The dam will be also equipped with sediment flushing systems, which will secure a supply of the feed for aquatic ecosystems, and fertiliser for people who live downstream on the Mekong to cultivate rice and grow crops, the consultants said.

They said the construction of the dam will not shutdown navigation along the Mekong River either, and boat travel will still be possible.

Representatives of Poyry and Compagnie Nationale du Rhone said that Laos will not be the first country to b uild a run-of-the- river dam. They said that other countries can learn from Laos as it will be building one of the most modern dams in the world.

Deputy Minister of Energy and Mines, Mr Viraphonh, said at opening ceremony of the Xayaboury dam presentation session that Laos considers hydropower developments as central to its long term development plan, thanks to the plentiful rivers and suitable mountainous terrain.

“Lao PDR looks forward to leaving the Least Developed Co untry list by 2020. We now have the opportunity to do so, and we do sincerely hope that the international community will help us to do it responsibly,” Mr Viraphonh.


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