(Reuters) – Cambodian villagers demonstrated on Friday against a controversial Lao hydropower dam that activists say is being built in defiance of an agreement to assess its potentially damaging impact on millions of people first.

About 200 villagers whose livelihoods depend on the Mekong River urged a halt to the Thai-led construction of the $3.5 billion Xayaburi dam, which has angered Cambodia’s government and triggered a rare rebuke by Laos‘s biggest ally, Vietnam.

“This dam won’t just affect the people in our country but will also affect many parts of Laos,” said Buddhist monk So Pra, organizer of the protest in Kompong Cham province, 124 km (77 miles) from the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh.

The Xayaburi dam is one of dozens planned as part of Laos’s aggressive push to boost its tiny $7.5 billion economy and become the “battery of Southeast Asia” by exporting the vast majority of its power.

Foreign governments are concerned Laos is prioritizing its growth ambitions over ecological and environmental protection.

Under pressure from neighbors that felt its environmental impact study was inadequate, Laos agreed in December to suspend the project pending an assessment by foreign experts. Four countries share the lower stretches of the 4,900 km (3,044 mile) Mekong — Laos, Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia.

Environmental group International Rivers released a report this week saying it had witnessed Ch Karnchang Pcl, Thailand’s second-biggest construction firm, resettling villagers, beefing up labor, building a large retaining wall and undertaking dredging to deepen and widen the riverbed.

“So far, Ch Karnchang claims that they are only going forward with ‘preliminary construction’ on the project,” said Kirk Herbertson, Mekong Campaigner for International Rivers.

“Ripping up the riverbed and resettling entire villages cannot be considered a preliminary activity.”

Te Navuth, secretary general of the Cambodia National Mekong River Commission, said Laos had violated a 1995 agreement requiring prior consultation before starting any development on the Mekong.

“Laos always said that it’s just preparatory work,” he said, adding Cambodia and Vietnam would jointly demand a halt.

Thailand could also be affected but, although small protests have taken place there, the government has been reluctant to oppose the project.

Ch Karnchang has a 57 percent share in the Xayaburi, which Thai banks are helping to finance. State-run Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT) will buy electricity generated by the plant.

(Editing by Martin Petty)

Source: Reuter

Advertisements

About The Aseanists Time

The Aseanists Time is daily online newspaper and magazine covering on regional politic, economic, and social issues; science and technology, regional leaders, politic and economic in each ASEAN Member States along with ASEAN 6 (United States, Australia, Japan, South Korea, China, and India), regional natural disaster and climate change, regional business, finance and economic statistic and figure. Furthermore, We also cover on top 10 economic countries. Finally, we report ASEAN, EU and UN as well.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s