Xayaburi contractor: Part of project begins

Published: 27/04/2011 05:00



VietNamNet Bridge
– Thailand’s Ch Karnchang
(CK) – contractor of the Xayaburi controversial hydroelectric project in Laos, said that
it sees a clear way for the Xayaburi dam and hopes to sign construction and power
purchase contracts for the 110 billion baht project within 30 days.

second largest contractor is pushing ahead with the controversial Xayaburi dam
in Laos
despite concerns voiced by environmental activists.

The Bangkok Post quoted CK’s Chief Executive, Plew
Trivisvavet, as saying “that the Laos
government has already decided to build the dam, and brushed aside speculation
the project could be scrapped amid concerns voiced by other countries in the
region about the potential impact on the Mekong River

“We expect to receive an official notification from the Laos
government within one to two weeks to carry on with the project,” he said at
CK’s annual shareholders meeting last week.

The Mekong River Commission (MRC) has expressed concerns
about the possible environmental effects of the Xayaburi project, but
acknowledges that the final decision will be made by Laos.

officials for their part have passed on MRC concerns to CK, but the firm says
environmental issues have been fully taken into account in the design of the
“run-of-river” dam.

“The MRC does not yet have a say on whether the project will
proceed or not,” Plew said in Bangkok.

The Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat) is
expected to take up 95% of the power generated by the Xayaburi project. CK has
committed to sell power from the 1,280-megawatt hydroelectric plant at a price
of 2.19 baht per kilowatt-hour.

“We are aiming to sign the power purchase agreement and
construction contracts worth 76 billion baht, as well as loan agreements with
banks to finance the project, within 30 days. After the signing, we will begin
construction immediately,” Plew said.

An investigation by Thailand’s Sunday Post found CK
trucks and laborers already were working at the site despite the lack of formal
approval for the project to proceed.

Plew acknowledged that road construction at the site,
located 80 kilometers from Luang Prabang, had already started. He added that CK
would build a new town for villagers in the area, including hospitals and

Of the total project cost, up to 8 billion baht has been
budgeted for work to minimize the environmental impact of the dam, including 4
billion baht for fish ladders to enable migration and boat locks.

Somkuan Watakeekul, managing director of South East Asia
Energy, the company overseeing the engineering work, said it will pay around
one billion baht to 424 households forced to relocate. He denied reports that
villagers were being paid compensation of just 450 baht to leave the area.

“We have paid around one billion baht as compensation. It is
the responsibility of the Laos
government to manage the compensation program,” Somkuan said.

“Apart from fish, the run-of-the-river design will mitigate
any impact on other parts of the environment, such as the forest;  and money will be spent on improving the
well-being of the local community.”

Last week, Thai Energy Minister, Wannarat Wannarat
Charnnukul, said that Thailand
would continue promoting the plan to purchase electricity from the Xayaburi

Thais also protest the
Xayaburi project

The Bangkok Post on April 22, quoted Watchara Phethong,
Democrat MP for Bangkok
and spokesman for the house panel, as saying “that the Committee on political
development, mass communications and public participation under the Thai house
panel opposed the dam project, which it believes would adversely affect
riverside residents and the environment.”

Some other members in the committee called for Thailand to ask Laos to abandon the Xayaburi

The committee on political development, mass communications
and public participation said the government should explain the project to the
public, said Democrat MP for Bangkok Boonyod Sukthinthai.

The government should bring the proposed power purchase
contract to parliament so MPs could examine it. The panel would investigate
state-run Krung Thai Bank over its role in granting a loan to Ch Karnchang, the
contractor, Mr Boonyod said.

On April 19, people in eight provinces in Thailand signed a petition and sent
it to the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR),
protesting the Xayaburi project. They were afraid that the $3.5 billion project
would harm eight provinces in northeastern Thailand.

Sripapha Phetmeesri, of the AICHR, said she would ask the
commission to examine the practices of Ch Karnchang Plc, which is set to build
the dam in conjunction with the Laos

She said the AICHR has no authority to directly examine
human rights violations of any company in Southeast Asian countries. However,
it can be done through a channel of the AICHR’s corporate social responsibility
(CSR) framework, which will be endorsed by the commission next month.

“We will not look into the details on how people living
along Mekong River will suffer as a result of the dam
construction,” she said. “But we can examine whether the project’s
owner, contractor and loan providers have gone against the principle of CSR,
which covers the issues of environmental impacts and basic human rights protection.”

and Cambodia
worry of the dam project

On April 23-24, Vietnamese Prime Minister, Nguyen Tan Dung
paid a visit to Cambodia.
Mr. Dung and his counterpart discussed issues of mutual concerns, including the
construction of hydropower dams on the Mekong River,
including the Xayaburi project.

They expressed their deep concern over the harmful and
serious impacts from this project on the living environment and livelihood of
people along the river.

They expected countries along the river, firstly Laos, Cambodia,
Thailand, Vietnam and the Mekong River Council to
carefully discuss and to reach a consensus before building hydropower works on
the main flow of the Mekong
River, for the
sustainable development of the people in the low basin.


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