Posts Tagged ‘Hydropower’

“We don’t want to be poor any more” – but the WWF is not listening

September 26, 2010

Laos says it rejects calls for a dam moratorium on the Mekong River because it wants cheap power to develop its economy despite threats to fish habitats. The Southeast Asian nation moved this week to secure regional approval for the first major hydropower plant on its stretch of the lower Mekong in the face of protests from international conservation groups. The Sayaboury dam is to be built across a part of the Mekong that flows through Laos.

Mekong and its main tributaries.

Wikipedia: Mekong and tributaries

The backers of the 1260 MW Sayaboury Hydro project include the World Bank and the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT), a state utility that signed an agreement in Laos in June to buy power once the new dam’s turbines come to life. The BBC reports that the World Bank would provide loans and guarantees for the $1.2bn project. The decision comes after nearly 10 years of discussions with the Laos government.

Laos is a poor, landlocked country which has few viable industries. But it does have plenty of mountains and rivers, and that is why it is pinning its hopes for the future on hydroelectric power. Nam Theun 2 is the country’s largest dam project, on a tributary of the mighty Mekong. It is designed to produce electricity for export to neighbouring Thailand, earning valuable foreign currency that Laos says it will use to alleviate poverty.

“We don’t want to be poor any more,” said Viraphone Viravong, director general of the country’s energy and mines department. “If we want to grow, we need this dam.”

But needless to say the WWF and The Guardian are opposed:

Giant Catfish _Pangasianodon gigas_ ©Sut.jpg

Giant dog-eating Catfish

Catfish the length of cars and stingrays that weigh more than tigers are threatened by the proposed 800m barrier.

“This dam is the greatest challenge the Mekong River Commission has faced since it was formed. It is the most serious test of its usefulness and relevance,” said Marc Goichot, of the WWF. “It is already very clear this dam would amplify and accelerate the negative impacts of Chinese dams to the Mekong delta. What are the other impacts?”

It has taken 10 years to get this far, but WWF supports a delay in the approval of the mainstream dams, including the Sayabouly hydropower dam in Sayabouly Province, Laos — and let the poverty and misery continue.

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