Downstream Mekong residents rally against Xayaburi Dam

     Residents from eight provinces along the Mekong River gathered yesterday outside the headquarters of the construction firm Ch Karnchang and Siam Commercial Bank to protest against the companies’ role in the construction of the Xayaburi Dam in Laos.

           The 810metres long and 32m high dam would be located in mainstream Mekong about 150 kilometres downstream of Luang Prabang, and be capable of producing 1,260MW of electricity. It will also include a 49squarekilometre reservoir storing 225 million cubic metres of water.

          Conservationists say that this dam would have a negative impact on the environment and adversely affect people’s livelihoods, notable those living downstream of the river. They said the fishing industry would be badly affect as the migration of fish would be blocked and many fresh water species endangered.

          After a meeting with the Mekong River Commission (MRC) in Siem Reap last December, leaders of lower Mekong countries, namely Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam, decided to halt the dam’s construction and seek more studies on its environment and social impact.

            However, Thai construction firm Ch Karnchang told the Stock Exchange of Thailand last week that it had signed a Bt 51.8billion construction contract with Xayaburi Power, a company that has obtained a concession from the Laos government.

          Yesterday, civic groups and conservationists from provinces along the Mekong gathered to demand that Ch Karnchang halt its construction until the MRC completes its study.

         The protesters came from Chiang Rai, Loei, Nong Khai, Beung Kan, Nakhon Phanom, Mukdahan and Ubon Ratchathani.

         They also demanded that Siam Commercial, Krung Thai, Kasikorn and Bangkok Bank stop financing the project, and called on the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand to scrap its purchasing contract with the Xayaburi project. It also wants the SET to scrutinise the deal.

          The protestors said they would hold a protest against the Xayaburi project again next month in Phuket, where the MRC is scheduled to meet to discuss the management of the river. Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra will preside over the conference, which will include executives of rivermanagement bodies from around the world as well as experts.

       The conservationists said that after holding the protest in Phuket, they would lodge a petition with the Administrative Court to demand that the project be scrapped because it would affect Thai people living along the Mekong.