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Laos Proposes Sixth Planned Mekong River Dam

The planned US$2 billion project will be developed by Datang Sanakham Hydropower company, a subsidiary of China’s Datang International Power Generation Co. Ltd.

Laos submitted the dam plans to the Mekong River Commission (MRC) earlier this month. If approved, construction will break ground at the end of the year and be operational by 2028. It will produce 684 megawatts of electricity, the majority of which will be sold to Thailand. The Sanakham hydroelectric project will be 155 km north of the Laos capital, Vientiane, and about 2km from the Thai border. 

This is the sixth of nine total dam projects being planned for the Mekong River in Laos. Two of them have already been completed and put into use. China has already built 11 dams on the upper reaches of the important waterway.

The proliferation of dams has attracted a variety of criticism from different groups for their impact on down-river communities. Vietnam, in particular, feels the effects of changing water levels, salinity and aquatic wildlife migration. The disruptions have hindered agricultural activities, inspired illegal land use, and ultimately left people more vulnerable to the menace of climate change.  The economic impacts are staggering; a recent report claimed that dams on the Mekong could result in a .3%, or US$1.14 billion, dip in Vietnam’s GDP from the effects on fisheries and agriculture alone.

Le Thi Thu Hang, Vietnam’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, said: "The development of hydropower projects on the Mekong River’s main flow needs to ensure that they cause no negative effects, including transborder impacts on the environment and socio-economic life of riparian countries, especially those situated downstream, in accordance with international customs and regulations set out by the Mekong River Commission (MRC)." She added that: "Vietnam wishes to and is willing to enhance cooperation with riparian countries to manage and utilize the river’s water resources effectively and sustainably, while ensuring to balance the interests of these countries and to not negatively affect people’s lives in the area."

[Top image via Flickr user WIL]

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