December 8, 2012
A number of National Assembly members yesterday voiced their support for the government’s decision to begin construction of the Xayaboury hydropower plant, the first dam to be built on the lower Mekong River.
National Assembly President Ms Pany Yathortu opened the floor for the law makers to debate the US$3.5 billion project in Xayaboury province after hearing a report from the Minister of Energy and Mines, Mr Soulivong Daravong.
Member for Savannakhet province, Mr Bounpone Sisoulath, said he welcomed the government’s decision to begin construction of the dam, adding that the minister had provided comprehensive and clear information on the project. He also expressed his appreciation of the government’s efforts to address the concerns of environmentalists and neighbouring countries over the potential negative impacts of the 1,285MW dam, and its strict adherence to the 1995 Mekong Agreement.
“On behalf of all National Assembly members, I would like to express my wholehearted appreciation to the government,” he said, drawing applause from his colleagues.
Mr Bounpon said some members of the public were not familiar with the details of the Xayaboury dam so he would like the sectors involved to make this information widely available. This would enable people to understand the importance of the mega investment project.
He also said the government must make sure that people who are relocated from the project site receive appropriate and fair compensation so they can improve their living conditions in the places where they are resettled.
National Assembly member for Luang Prabang province, Mr Bountham Sengphansiri, said he supported the project because he believed it would generate revenue for the country, helping to reduce poverty and fund development efforts.
He also said the development of hydropower in Laos was part of the Party and government’s policy to modernise and industrialise the country.
Mr Bountham said he would like the government to sell more power generated by the dam on the domestic market in light of the increasing demand for energy, adding that many parts of Laos still import electricity from neighbouring countries.
Mr Vilasouk Phimmason, a member for Xieng Khuang province, also voiced his support for the dam. He said the government should own a larger share of the project in order to earn more money from the use of national natural resources.
According to Mr Soulivong, the Xayaboury dam is a run-of-river structure which does not store large amounts of water, meaning it will not cause the river to dry up downstream. The dam is also equipped with modern technology and facilities to ensure that fish, sediment and boats can pass through it.
He said neighbouring countries had no objections to the dam so the government held a groundbreaking ceremony on November 7, giving the green light for the project developers to begin construction work on the Mekong mainstream.
Construction of the dam itself began last month. Estimates suggest it will cost about US$ 3.5 billion to build, with the completion date set for 2018. It will have the capacity to generate 1,285MW of emissions free electricity, most of which will be sold to Thailand.