(Phnom Phen, Cambodia) – The mighty Mekong River spanning Southeast Asia has won reprieve from a planned $3.8 billion hydro-electric dam project in Laos — for now. Meeting in Northern Cambodia last week, representatives from Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos (perhaps grudgingly) postponed a decision and called for further study, helmed by Japan, into its potential effects on the Mekong ecosystem.
The other Mekong-river nations willingness to stop the 1,260 mega-watt dam is rooted in both conservationist sentiment and in self-interest. Although tiny Laos has claimed the dam won’t affect nations downstream, no one is buying it: it’s impossible to deny a huge project at the headwaters of a major river will have serious ecological effects.
According to groups such as the Mekong River Commission and International Rivers, the Xayaburi dam would almost inevitably cause serious damage to fish stocks and wreck havoc on the normal tidal movement of the river—and perhaps impede future water availability to other nations with planned dam projects of their own.
Further, some fear the building of one profitable dam will set off a chain reaction of damn building. Laos has 8 other damming projects in mind beside the Xayaburi, and according to the BBC, Cambodia has projects of its own in the works.