Lao authorities have given approval to two Thai firms, Ch Karnchang and P.T. Construction & Irrigation, to proceed with the development of the Sayabouli Hydroelectric Power Project after the companies had completed a feasibility study and concluded that its outlook was promising.
The dam is to be built on the Mekong river in Sayabouli province, with an estimated cost of US$ 2.5 billions and a capacity to generate up to 1,260 megawatts of electricity for exporting mainly to Thailand. The project carries a 27-year concession with the possibility of two extensions of five years each.
However, for the next two years, the Thai developers have to carry out a detailed environmental and social impact study as well as a dam design that meets international standards. After that, the developers would begin preparatory construction works. They expect to complete construction in eight years.
However, regional environmental groups have expressed strong opposition to the project and voiced their concerns over the impacts on the environment, as they consider that the project approval process did not involve the participation of the local people.
They have also voiced their opposition to other dam projects that are in the plan. The government of Laos has so far allowed private foreign investors to conduct feasibility studies on seven hydropower dam projects on the Mekong River which, in addition to the Sayabouli project, include one in Luang Prabang province, one at Pak Baeng, Pak Lay, Baan Kum, Sanakham, and the Hongsa lignite project in Champassack. Addressing the environmental groups’ concerns, Lao officials say even though the government has given approval for feasibility studies, that does not necessarily mean that dams will be built, adding that they will not give the go-ahead if study results show excessive social and environmental impacts.
Listen to Songrit’s report for more details in Lao.