Laos to press ahead with ‘destructive’ new dam on Mekong

BANGKOK (AFP) – Environmentalists have criticised Laos for pressing ahead with plans for another “destructive dam” on the Mekong River, a waterway already strangled by hydropower schemes.

The flow of the Mekong, Southeast Asia’s longest river, is interrupted by a cascade of dams in China – where it is called the Lancang.

Two downstream dams – the Xayaburi and Don Sahong – have been built in Laos, which wants to construct seven more as it strives to live up to its billing as the “Battery of Asia”.

Water levels have dropped to record lows over the last year, exposing rocks and killing fish, a phenomenon blamed by villagers in Thailand and Laos on the operations of dams.

On Monday, Laos’ communist government submitted proposals for the Sanakham dam – close to the northeastern border with Thailand – to the Mekong River Commission (MRC).

The MRC is a dam consultation body for Mekong nations, but has been accused of being toothless in stopping river projects sponsored by governments and big business.

The consultation process is in fact a “rubber stamp” to get work started on the Sanakham this year in time for a 2028 completion, according to International Rivers, a key campaign group against damming.