Thai environmentalists plan to use every avenue to stop Laos from going ahead with the construction of the Xayaburi hydropower dam on the Mekong River.
Laos has signalled the launch of the dam, which will be built by the Thai company Ch Karnchang, with its first official statement saying the project would go ahead despite calls last year for it to provide further information.
Pakawan Chufahmanee, of the Thai National Mekong Committee Secretariat, said yesterday Laos had provided little information on the dam and no details on its transboundary and health impact.
“Some important information is missing. What we have now is just an initial disclosure. We need more information,” Ms Pakawan said.
Vientiane yesterday told Mekong countries that it would go ahead with the Xayaburi dam.
It claimed the project would not have an impact on the environment and it had full authority to approve construction because the dam would be located in its territory.
Thailand has called on Laos to extend public hearings on the project as required under the framework of the Procedures for Notification, Prior Consultation and Agreement (PNPCA) protocol approved by Mekong subregion members in 2003. The Mekong subregion members are Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam.
Ms Pakawan said the statement from Vientiane would make it difficult for the other countries to try to defer the construction and provide their own input on the project as required under the PNPCA.
The Xayaburi dam is the first project to be proposed under the PNPCA framework.
The protocol is a mechanism designed to allow the countries to voice concerns over projects that might have a cross-border impact.
After Thailand received information on the project through the PNPCA system in October, officials organised three public hearings in Chiang Rai and in Nakhon Phanom provinces, which are close to the dam site.
An initial survey found cause for concern that the dam’s construction would pose a threat to the livelihood of wildlife and people living in nearby communities.
The hearings all demanded that the dam’s construction be postponed until studies into the health and environmental impacts could be carried out.
Thailand was yet to complete more public hearings in April, six months after being informed of the project by PNPCA.
The report on the outcome of the public hearings will be submitted through the Mekong River Commission Secretariat to Vientiane.
Thai-Water Partnerships chair Hanarong Yaowaloes said the government should oppose the project as it had the potential to affect residents living along the Mekong River.
The Xayaburi dam project is 200km away from Loei and is designed to churn out 1,285 megawatts. Thailand is expected to buy up to 90 percent of the output.