In a move which could have political and economic significance for Burma, the Mekong River Commission has ordered that all work on a major hydroelectric dam in Laos must be suspended pending new environmental studies.
The decision by the commission, comprised of Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos, follows evidence by environmental groups that ground work for the massive 1,260-megawatt Xayaburi Dam directly on the Mekong was continuing despite an earlier halt order.
Protest groups have threatened to blockade a road bridge linking Laos with Thailand unless construction stops.
Thailand is financing the dam and most of the electricity generated by it would be pumped into the Kingdom—just as major dams planned in Burma would mainly benefit Thailand and China.
Cambodia and Vietnam have complained that the US $3.7 billion Xayaburi Dam would disrupt water flows downriver and destroy fishing on which millions of people depend, especially in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta region.
“This success in stopping Xayaburi not only shows the power of protest it also underlines how important regional cooperation is in deciding the future of major rivers which flow across international borders,” an environment NGO official told The Irrawaddy, referring to Burma’s Salween and Irrawaddy rivers.
The Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand is a major financial backer of the Xayaburi Dam and is behind plans to build an even bigger one on the Salween.