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U.S. concerned about effects of Xayaburi Dam

The United States has pledged US$ 50 million for environmental and social development projects among the lower Mekong countries, following the conclusion of the Asean foreign ministers meeting in Cambodia, and other related meetings regional meetings.

Location of Xayaburi DamUS Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who attended the fifth Lower Mekong Initiative Ministerial Meeting in Cambodia, said the funds would aid social networking and environmental groups in Burma, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam.

In a US statement, Clinton said the US was concerned about the planned construction of the Xayaburi Dam on the Mekong River in Laos, as it would likely have a major impact on fishing, agriculture, the environment and people's livelihoods and health in Southeast Asia.

She said the US will give funds to support the Mekong River Commission's (MRC) study on sustainable management and development of the Mekong River. It will also contribute $2 million to the MRC's fisheries programme.

The Xayaburi Dam is a proposed hydroelectric dam on the Lower Mekong River approximately 30 kilometres (19 mi) east of Xayaburi in northern Laos. The dam would produce hydroelectric power to be sold to Thailand.

Construction was suspended in early 2012 after complaints that the dam's feasibility studies were incomplete and countries downriver wanted more information.

Construction on the dam began in March 2012 after Ch.Karnchang, the Thai builder, announced it had signed a $2 billion contract with the Xayaburi Power Company.

Cambodia's government quickly reacted to the announcement, threatening to take Laos to international court if it chose to build the dam unilaterally.

Laos announced a halt to construction on May 11, 2012, following complaints from neighbors and environmental groups.

The Xayaburi Dam has been proposed on a site located 350 kilometres upstream of Vientiane and 770 kilometres downstream of Jinhong, China, the last dam among seven Chinese dams, including four existing dams and three planned dams. In terms of mean energy supply, it would be the third largest project among those dams considered for development on the mainstream in the Lower Mekong Basin.

If the final investment decision is made, the dam's construction would take eight years to complete and it would cost approximately $3.5 billion. A Strategic Environmental Assessment commissioned by the Mekong River Commission recommended a 10-year deferral of all Mekong mainstream dams in Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam, and called for further studies. The MRC warned that if Xayaburi and subsequent schemes went ahead, it would "fundamentally undermine the abundance, productivity and diversity of the Mekong fish resources.”

Studies say that fish are a staple of the diet in Laos and Cambodia, with around 80 per cent of the Cambodian population's annual protein intake coming from fish caught in the Mekong River system, with no alternative source to replace them. The dam would also restrict the flow of water over agricultural areas linked to the river, according to environmentalists.
Last Updated ( Monday, 16 July 2012 14:08 )  

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