The 15-year-old Mekong River Commission has postponed the planned $4 billion Xayaburi hydroelectric project in Laos has because communities in four countries (Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam) downstream are worried the project will ruin their livelihoods on what may be the world’s largest freshwater fishery.
What some in Laos envision as “Asia’s battery” has become the central environmental confrontation in Southeast Asia; opponents fear the dam could be the first in a series degrading the fragile ecology along the 3,000-mile river that is home to 60 million.
Vietnam seeks a 10-year moratorium on dams on the Mekong, while Laos sees hydropower as a resource that could lift it from poverty. Europeans weighing in include a Finnish consulting firm that says Laos has addressed concerns about ecological impacts and the The World Wide Fund for Nature that says a decision to go ahead would be premature.
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