Despite the warnings, plans push ahead for new barriers, to the detriment of people living in Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. The worst off are the millions of Vietnamese who live in the Mekong delta, the lowest lying area on the majestic river.
Ho Chi Minh City (AsiaNews) - Construction of dams on the Mekong continues. The river is 4,000 kilometers long, rising on the Tibetan plateau and flows through China, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam.
The stretch of this river that flows through the Chinese territory is 2,130 km. It's called Lan-ts'ang River. Chinese authorities have built 20 huge hydroelectric dams on this river.
According to the Mekong River Commission (MRC), on May 11, 2020, the Laotian government kicked off the consultation process of the Sanakham hydroelectric project. This is the sixth hydroelectric dam on Laos' Mekong River. It will be built by the end of 2020. It is expected to be operational by 2028 with a total cost of over $ 2 billion.
Two years ago, in this area downstream of the Mekong River, the Xe Pian-Xe Namnoy dam collapsed on July 23, 2018. The water bomb killed at least 29 people, hundreds of people were missing and numerous houses in the south of the Sanamxay district were swept away.
After this disaster, the Mekong River Rescue Alliance (MRRA) called on the Laotian government to immediately cancel the Luang Prabang hydroelectric project, as this dam can cause serious damage to the Mekong River.
The Mekong River Rescue Alliance also asked local authorities to seek alternative energy solutions and implement policies for sustainable development.
However, the Laotian government is still determined to pursue the hydroelectric power project of Luang Prabang, one of the lower reaches of the Mekong River. The Laotian government plans to build the dam (the fifth) by the end of 2020. It will be the third and largest dam in Laos.
The area downstream of the Mekong River is approximately 2,390 km long. In addition to the Sanakham hydroelectric project, just 15 km north of Vietnam, five other projects, including Xayaburi, Don Sahong, Pak Peng, Pak Lay and Luang Prabang, have been proposed for the consultation process.
The Sanakham hydroelectric project is located between the province of Xayaburi and that of Vientiane. The project is located about 2 km away from the Thai border and towards the upper part of the Loei province.
The limited liability company Datang Sanakham Energy is the contractor of this project with a total cost of approximately 2.073 million dollars. This project will have a capacity of 684 MW. The electricity will mainly be sold in Thailand.
The Laotian government also provided a series of "technology and feasibility studies" to the Mekong River International Commission (MRC). The documents were also shared with other MRC members such as Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam.
According to the Vietnam River Network (VRN), the increased development of hydropower on the main stream of the Mekong River will seriously threaten the environment and people's lives in different countries. In particular, the Vietnamese and Cambodians who live downstream of the Mekong River.
While the coronavirus pandemic has not yet stopped in these Indochina countries, some upstream states have continued to build dams on the Mekong. China has built 20 huge hydroelectric dams. Laos built 11 of them.
All these 31 huge dams are affecting 70 million people living in Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. The most impacted are the millions of Vietnamese who live in the Mekong delta, the lowest lying area of the majestic river.