Laos Builds Road and Workers’ Camp for Luangprabang Dam Ahead of Formal Approval

A Thai dam developer has begun clearing land for a large-scale Mekong River dam near the ancient Lao capital Luang Prabang before signing a hydropower sale pact required for approval, raising concerns from downstream communities already hit hard by Laos’ aggressive damming of the vital waterway.

The intergovernmental group that manages Mekong River dam construction says the rules allow Laos to build roads and a camp to house workers – seen in satellite images and confirmed by Lao officials — before formal approval of the dam.

Critics say the head start on forest clearing shows that the Mekong River Commission (MRC) – which grants Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam the right to review dam projects for cross-border impacts – is being treated as a mere formality by Vientiane and its Thai partners.

Laos operates two dams on the mainstream Mekong and is in various stages of planning or building nine more, damming a waterway that provides fish, water and fertilizer for 60 million Southeast Asians and already has 11 dams upstream in China.

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RFA’s Lao Service. Translated by Max Avary. Written in English by Eugene Whong.