GT-Riders pass through the controversial Xayaburi Dam site.

Discussion in 'Laos Road Trip Reports' started by brian_bkk, Mar 6, 2014.

  1. brian_bkk

    brian_bkk Moderator Staff Member

    G'day All,

    The recent GT-Rider boat trip passed through the Xayaburi dam site one last time before the dam is completed.

    Below are some pictures as we passed the dam site which as you can see if well and truly under construction.

    If any one has more pictures, news and other information regarding the dam.. Please post in this thread.

    Pictures below taken February 25th 2014.

    It was extremely bright and sunny on this day.. So the pictures are not the best.























    A few more pics on my mobile phone I need to pull off.

    A panoramic shot below.


    Thanks David for making his trip happen.. Once in a life time experience.


    A link to International rivers and more about the Xayabouri Dam
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  3. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    A picture of the Mekong dams


    How far the dam will back up

    Loads of good articles in the above link.
  4. Jurgen

    Jurgen Moderator

    Yes, it was an ‘awesome cruise’, a unique chance to visit this stretch of the Mekong were the Xayaburi Dam (Xayaboury or Sayabouly) is under construction. It is the first on the lower Mekong, one of many controversial projects on this part of the Big River. The higher part, where the river is known under its Chinese name Lancang (Turbulent River) is already tamed through a couple of hydroelectric hindrances.

    Here are a some more illustrations, similar to Brian’s contribution. Few such pictures were already published as the tourist cruises in the region are very rare.













  5. Ian Bungy

    Ian Bungy Ol'Timer

    Impressive Stuff! They certainly have enough Tower Cranes! David, Your post showing all the proposed Dams is Incredible! So Kiss Goodbye to the Once Mighty Mekong and all the Marine life, Stingrays etc and Good Bye to The Giant Cat Fish! So Sad!!!
  6. TonyBKK

    TonyBKK Ol'Timer

    And don't forget the critically endangered Irrawaddy dolphins... Sadly less than 100 left :(

  7. brian_bkk

    brian_bkk Moderator Staff Member

    We were fortunate enough to catch a glimpse of the elusive Irrawaddy Dolphins on our Kayaking trip about 5 years ago.

    There are incredibly fast, up and back under the surface.

    Fortunate enough to have this picture below..

    People can go for days and not catch a glimpse we were informed.

    Sad that some of this magical area we kayaked will be under water and destroyed.

  8. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    A couple of environmental websites for some more info

    Some fisheries info I was able to dig out.

    If you get a chance at all to spend time on the Mekong do it, because the pace of change is frightening & one day you won't be able to sail the Mekong & see such timeless lifestyles, culture & traditions.

    Another vdo on the Mekong
  9. TonyBKK

    TonyBKK Ol'Timer

    ^ Wow, the Mekong is going to become a huge reservoir from Xayaboury to just south of Luang Prabang?! What will happen to all of the villagers currently living on the shore of the river? :sad1::
  10. Mooter

    Mooter Member

    Good photos. Thank you
  11. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    Some more info & viewpoints

    From 2012 reports


  12. Ticino

    Ticino Ol'Timer

    Thanks for this complementary update. Anyone having a clue when they are to close the dam? I'd like to do the trip but have had June+ in mind?
  13. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    For Ticino


    Info sourced from the Mekong River's Commission Prior Consultation Project Review Report 2010.

    QUOTE] From 2010
    Overall layout of Xayaburi dam project. The structure is 820 m long and 32.6 m high. The spillway facility comprises ten radial gates, 19 m wide and 21 m high. Gross reservoir volume is 1,300 m3 or 1.3 km3

    From a 2010 report

    Some other bits & pieces

    The Sayabouly / Xayaboury is going to be a monumental change to the Mekong river in Laos & the life of peoples on living on / by the river.

    Let's hope for the best, because there aint no stopping the Mekong dams now.
  14. brian_bkk

    brian_bkk Moderator Staff Member

    Bangkok Post 3 April 2014

    Xayaburi Dam in Laos "23% complete"

    Vientiane -
    Construction of the controversial Xayaburi Hydro-power plant, the first dam on the lower stretch of the Mekong River, is now 23% complete, Lao media reports said Thursday.

    The US$3.5 billion dam and power plant in Xayaburi province is "on track to be operational in 2019 as planned," the Vientiane Times reported.

    Xayaburi Power Co Ltd's deputy managing director gave US ambassador to Laos Daniel Clune a tour of the project this week, the state-run daily said.

    The ambassador also visited the resettlement site under construction for the inhabitants of 15 villages displaced by the project.

    The dam has been strongly opposed by environmentalists and neighbouring countries concerned about its potential impact on the river's fisheries.

    The ambassador reportedly said the project would benefit the Lao people in the future as long as it was able to minimise downstream effects

    In November 2012, Laos officially began construction on the dam, despite serious objections from partners in the Mekong River Commission.

    The prime ministers of the commission's four member countries - Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam - were to meet Saturday in Ho Chi Minh City to review development projects for the Mekong river, including the Xayaburi dam.

    The Xayaburi project's Thai developers say they have answered critics' concerns by including fish ladders and fish elevators in their dam designs.

    But questions remain about the potential impact on fish migration in the 4,880-kilometre-long Mekong.
  15. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    Here's another interesting article on the dam

    2014-0408 - South China Morning Post - Experts renew quake fears over Xayaburi dam on Mekong River in Laos

  16. brian_bkk

    brian_bkk Moderator Staff Member

    Vietnam screams for halt to Mekong dams as delta silts up

    Kraisak Choonhavan
    Special to The Nation April 30, 2014 1:00 am
    Thai activists protest against construction of the Xayaburi Dam.


    Thailand must join with downstream neighbours in persuading Laos to abide by regional oversight mechanism

    When the livelihoods of 20 million of your citizens living in the Mekong River delta are threatened, along with 27 per cent of your GDP, 90 per cent of your rice exports and 60 per cent of your seafood exports, what do you do, especially when the sources of that threat, the governments of Laos and Thailand, don't appear to be listening to your objections?

    This is the challenge facing Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung as he tries to maintain cordial diplomatic relations with his fellow Mekong River Commission Council and Asean members, while at the same time ratcheting up pressure for a halt to construction of the giant US$3.8-billion (Bt122.9 billion), 1,285MW Xayaburi hydropower project and the smaller but equally controversial 260MW Don Sahong dam, the first barriers on the mainstream of the lower Mekong.

    Speaking at the opening of the Second Mekong River Commission (MRC) summit in Ho Chi Minh City on April 5, Prime Minister Dung noted that the Mekong has become one of the five great rivers in the world with the most serious flow reduction and that salinity intrusion in Vietnam's delta region was expanding into new areas. He called for "full and effective implementation of the 1995 Mekong Agreement, including the Procedure of Notification, Prior Consultation and Agreement (PNPCA), to support sound decision-making on proposed water resource development projects".

    This was a clear reference to Laos' violation of its obligations under the Mekong Agreement, which made the PNPCA mandatory for all mainstream projects. Riding roughshod over the strong objections of Cambodia and Vietnam, Laos unilaterally launched construction of the Xayaburi project under Thai developer Ch Karnchang in 2012, without completing the PNPCA process. Then in September last year it announced the start of the Don Sahong Dam, this time avoiding the PNPCA process by claiming the project was not on the mainstream, a claim dismissed as clearly untrue by all impartial observers.

    To minimise a diplomatic confrontation that would push Laos even further into an avaricious Chinese patron-client relationship, Vietnam's strategy is to rely on science. "Let's listen to the science to chart a sustainable path for development along the lower Mekong," says Tran Xuan Viet of the Vietnam Union of Science and Technology Associations. So Vietnam is pushing for the rapid completion of two scientific studies which it expects will provide sufficient independent confirmation that the Xayaburi and Don Sahong dams threaten "significant harm" to Cambodia's and Vietnam's national interests, thus allowing them to activate Article 7 of the Mekong Agreement and halt construction of mainstream dam projects.

    Confirming this strategy Dung called for the MRC to accelerate its research activities, "with the highest priority being given to the completion of the MRC Council Study on the sustainable management and development of the Mekong River". This is the study mandated by MRC Council members in 2011 to resolve the impasse created by Cambodia's and Vietnam's refusal to agree to the Xayaburi project, a move later ignored by Laos. Both this study and Vietnam's delta study are expected to be completed next year.

    In another carefully orchestrated move clearly designed to broadcast Vietnam's objections to the Xayaburi and Don Sahong dams the week before the summit, the People's Aid Coordinating Committee (PACCOM), a Vietnamese government agency reporting to the prime minister's office, organised a day-long workshop on the Xayaburi attended by Vietnamese scientists, National Assembly agencies, research institutes and other stakeholders.

    The workshop's conclusions must have shocked the Lao and Thai governments as well as the four Thai banks which are financing the Xayaburi project. The meeting called for three dramatic actions: the Lao government to temporarily suspend construction of the Xayaburi dam, the Thai government to cancel its "premature" power purchase agreement until there is regional consensus on hydropower projects on the Mekong mainstream, and for the Thai banks to reconsider their risk assessments and value their international reputation.

    These unusually forthright demands, stage-managed by a Vietnamese government agency, show just how far Vietnam is prepared to go to stop the Xayaburi dam. The PACCOM meeting followed up with letters to the big four Thai banks inviting them to send representatives to explain why they are financing the Xayaburi.

    Three days after the PACCOM meeting another unprecedented demonstration of the burgeoning anti-Xayaburi sentiment took place when 40 Cambodian, Thai, Vietnamese and international NGOs issued a Declaration of Solidarity, setting a one-year deadline to stop construction of the Xayaburi. Issued "in support of the 60 million Cambodians, Laotians, Thais and Vietnamese whose lives and livelihoods are threatened by the Xayaburi dam", the Declaration's one-year deadline was based on the developer's schedule which indicates that construction of the dam across the main body of the river will start around February 2015, "thereby causing major irreversible ecological and hydrological impacts on the entire lower Mekong River basin system".

    The Declaration also supported Vietnam's official position on the Xayaburi, "to defer it and all other projects on the Mekong mainstream for at least 10 years", and called on the Thai government to cancel the power purchase agreement for the Xayaburi.

    Can construction of the Xayaburi Dam be stopped within a year, before it starts to cause irreversible damage to the entire lower river-basin system?

    (According to the developer, construction is between 23 and 30 per cent complete.)

    Yes. It's been done before, recently, and in a neighbouring country, Myanmar. In September 2011, President Thein Sein's decision to stop construction of the Chinese-backed Myitsone Dam on the Ayeyarwady (Irrawaddy) River shocked Beijing and signalled the start of the much-lauded democratisation process and a sharp brake on the creeping Chinese economic colonisation of Myanmar.

    Anti-dam sentiment in Myanmar, Cambodia and Vietnam is rapidly catching up with that in Thailand, where the current government's ill-conceived Bt350-billion flood protection "non-plan" is stalled due to strong public protest against some 20 proposed dams. Vietnam has cancelled over 400 dam projects in the last 12 months, ending a decades-long love affair, while in Myanmar petitions are being sent to the Chinese and Thai governments to immediately halt six proposed dam projects on the Thanlwin (Salween) River, one of the longest free-flowing rivers in the world. And just after the Mekong Summit, Cambodia's National Assembly held a hearing about the Don Sahong project which is likely to result in petitions against both dams being sent to key promoters, including the Thai banks financing the projects. According to Son Chhay, Chief Whip of the Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP), "most of our party's elected MPs and senators are opposed to the Xayaburi and the Don Sahong dams because they threaten regional collaboration and pose the greatest risk to the Tonle Sap, the central pillar of Cambodian food security".

    Bangkok Bank, Kasikorn Bank, Krungthai Bank and Siam Commercial Bank, the Xayaburi's main lenders, and PTT, which holds a 25 per cent stake in the project, are all now facing an increasingly tough choice: Stop the Xayaburi now, either by suspending their syndicated loan or persuading the Thai government to cancel the power purchase agreement, or face the growing displeasure of the Vietnamese government and even greater losses when Vietnam eventually stops the project next year.

    The Thai stakeholders have plenty at risk. The four banks all have expansion plans in Vietnam, while PTT is in an advanced stage of planning for a multibillion-dollar Vietnamese refinery project. To compound its dilemma, there have been media reports that PTT is even considering increasing its stake in the Xayaburi, in what can only be described as a clear case of politically motivated interference designed to decrease prime promoter Ch Karnchang's exposure to this increasingly risky project.

    SCB chairman Anand Panyarachun, a strong promoter of sustainable development in the past, once called on Asean to reconsider its so-called principle of non-interference. What we need today is a proactive principle of ecological interference. Environmental impacts do not recognise sovereign borders. We need the four MRC members to tell China to pay attention to the impact its six dams on the upper Mekong are having downstream, and refrain from building more, and we need Thailand to join with Cambodia and Vietnam to persuade Laos to repair the broken PNPCA process by stopping construction of the Xayaburi dam immediately.

    Kraisak Choonhavan is a former senator.
  17. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    Lao dam project tests swimming ability of fish

    June 11, 2014 3:10 pm

    Vientiane - Laos' controversial Xayaburi dam project on the Mekong River has begun testing the effectiveness of fish passage ways, news reports said Wednesday.
    British-based Fishtek Consulting has been hired to evaluate whether species indigenous to the river are able to use ladders that bypass the Xayaburi hydroelectric dam, the first to be built on the lower Mekong, said the Vientiane Times.

    "Fish swimming ability tests began in May this year and are ongoing," it said.

    The 3.5-billion-dollar dam has faced strong opposition from environmentalists and neighbouring countries concerned about its potential impact on fisheries.

    To address these concerns, the majority Thai-owned contractor Xayaburi Power Company included fish ladders and elevators as part of the dam’s construction design, but such devices have never been tested on species indigenous to the 4,880-kilometre Mekong.

    Fishtek has been testing whether fish can swim against a current travelling 1.2 metres per second, the Vientiane Times said.

    "At this speed most of the fish species require several attempts to enter the flume," it said.

    Construction was started in November 2012 and is now one-fourth complete, despite concerns about the dam’s impact on fisheries, an important source of protein and income for millions of people living in the Mekong basin.

    Will it ever worK?

  18. brian_bkk

    brian_bkk Moderator Staff Member

    Aljazera report from the Xayabouri Dam


  19. ianyonok

    ianyonok Ol'Timer

    All very sad and difficult reading.......
  20. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    Channel News Asia has a nice little report

    Xayaburi dam: 'Testing ground for untried technologies'

    In 2019, the first dam on the Lower Mekong will be completed. Environmentalists fear it will threaten fisheries and communities, but the Lao government says the concerns are exaggerated. In the first part of a special series, Pichayada Promchertchoo visited the dam site to find out how developers plan to mitigate the impact.

    VIENTIANE: "I miss the Mekong." A sad smile flickered across the face of Thongkham Phalibai, a mother of two and owner of a grocery store in Luang Prabang.

    "I was living by the river for so long, earning money from gold panning and farming. But I can't go back there anymore. I don't know where my old house used to be."

    It has been four years since Thongkham left a simple life in her old village of Pak Neun for a new one in Neunsavang, a remote village 80 kilometres south of Luang Prabang. She was among the 2,986 villagers who were forced to resettle because their homes either sat on the location of the controversial Xayaburi dam or were in areas that will be flooded.

    A joint venture between the Lao government and Thai investors, the US$3.8-billion mega-project has encountered fierce opposition from environmental groups and countries downstream of the dam. Many fear its successful completion will lead to more dams being built on the Mekong, which they believe could have a devastating impact on the tens of millions of people who live in the Lower Mekong Basin.

    But the government has played down the concern, maintaining it has struck the right balance between the benefits and potential negative impact of the dam - the first to be built across the Lower Mekong mainstream and one of 12 such projects proposed for the region.

    "It's very much exaggerated that we would kill 60 million people. You have to have balance. You have to optimise the benefits and minimise the impacts. And that’s the case," said Laos’ Deputy Minister of Energy and Mines Viraphonh Viravong.


    His country is the poorest state in Southeast Asia. It is a landlocked nation with limited options to achieve sustainable economic and social development.

    But Laos is blessed with many rivers and streams, including Southeast Asia's largest and most powerful river - the Mekong. It flows 1,835 kilometres through the country’s mountainous terrain from north to south, channelling more than half of the region’s power potential to the small nation. As a result, Laos relies heavily on hydropower development, which not only creates energy for domestic consumption but can also raise revenue through export sales.

    "You generate cheap electricity. It's renewable and doesn't emit carbon dioxide," Viraphonh added.


    But even the deputy minister admitted there are downsides to hydropower development, particularly when it involves mainstream facilities such as the Xayaburi dam.

    The construction has displaced thousands of people from 15 villages and resulted in a loss of traditional livelihoods. Its location across the Mekong’s main channel also means fish migration, sediment and the river's hydrology are affected, which has a potential impact on the millions of people who rely on these natural systems, both within Laos and beyond.


    But as environmental groups highlight the concerns, Laos sees windows of opportunity.

    Once its turbines start turning in 2019, the Xayaburi dam will generate 1,285 megawatts of clean energy. But because Laos does not need so much power, 95 per cent will be sold to Thailand.

    According to project owner Xayaburi Power Co Ltd (XPCL), the project will earn Laos more than US$100 million per year. And for the government, that economic windfall has the potential to improve the lives of the 6.8 million population.

    "That's why when you visit any site of hydropower projects in Laos, you won’t see anybody against it," Viraphonh said.

    Generally, he seems to be correct

    Despite her nostalgia for the good old days by the Mekong, Thongkham admitted her life is far more comfortable in the new village more than 30 kilometres away. Her husband provides motorcycle repair services while she runs a grocery store. Both enjoy reliable electricity, running water and roads.

    A similar response was heard on the other side of the Mekong. At Nator Yai village, hundreds of villagers are getting on with their new lives. They had to move from their homes in Houay Souy village to make way for the dam’s development, losing their farmland in the process.


    More than 70 affected families have been given new houses and land to grow food, and while some complain they need more space, they agree that life at the new village is not bad.

    "It's comfortable," said fisherman-turned-carpenter Thong Phonchampa. "There are many good things here. There is a road and electricity. There is also a school and a temple they built for us. Plus, we're now also closer to doctors."

    "Still, I miss the Mekong," the 68-year-old added.



    In Laos, affected families have been compensated for what they have lost. But it remains unclear exactly how the dam could affect people in neighbouring countries.

    For years, the fishermen of Pak Ing Tai village in northern Thailand have struggled with the impact of China's damming in the Upper Mekong. Their riverbank farming has been disrupted by unseasonal floods and droughts while catches continue to decline. Life is also getting harder with shrinking incomes.

    "If my husband can't catch any fish, our income that day is zero," said Ratchadaporn Jaikaew. Her young daughter needs to go to school and both of them rely on her husband, Ae.


    During the dry season, Ae grows vegetables on the riverbank and fishes for two months when it rains. If he is lucky, he can catch two to three fish in one day and sell them for about US$15, which is enough to buy food for his family. But sometimes, his net remains empty throughout the week. The 35-year-old does not really know why there are fewer fish in the river. However, he is certain in his belief that damming the Mekong mainstream will have a negative impact on fishing stock.

    Such stories have influenced the thinking of those who have viewed the development of the Xayaburi dam with concern.


    Thousands of people in Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam have protested against the Xayaburi hydropower project since it was tabled in 2010 with the Mekong River Commission (MRC) - an intergovernmental organisation that supervises the development of Southeast Asia’s longest river.


    In the same year, a key report commissioned by the MRC strongly recommended that any decisions on mainstream dams be delayed for 10 years due to their potential to have a major impact on many people. The recommendations drew solid support from the Vietnamese government and environmental groups, which claimed that vital ecosystems, food security and the livelihoods of Mekong communities are at stake.

    But the project went ahead and is now 67 per cent complete. Owner XPCL maintains that any potential impact can be mitigated with new technologies, including low-level outlets on the dam to transport sediment - which is a natural fertiliser - and a fish passage.

    Also known as a fish ladder, the 18-metre passage is designed to help fish migrate up and down the river, which should allow communities to continue to have access to sufficient fishing supplies. Its many slots feature different water speeds, which XPCL said help different migratory fish in the Mekong.

    "The fish passage is designed specifically for Mekong fish. And we're confident it will be effective," said XPCL's deputy managing director of operation and maintenance, Anuparp Wonglakorn.

    But some environmentalists do not share his confidence.

    "We don't believe in the fish ladder. There's a lot of complexity. How can you make them go to your fish ladder or elevators? They are not human beings," said World Wildlife Fund Cambodia country director Chhith Sam Ath.

    "You can't go and call for some training. They live in nature and they have a cycle."

    Still, Anuparp is positive the facility will work. He cited a study by fisheries specialists to determine the behaviour of Mekong fish, including the water speeds they use to migrate. Tests were carried out in the river and the findings were used to design the lift.


    But due to the great variety of Mekong fish, the company focused on species that are rare or economically important. "The rest are secondary," Anuparp said.

    The Mekong is home to the world's largest inland fish habitat and hundreds of species. Critics believe the environmental costs could be devastating if the fish passage fails to work. But until the dam starts operating, nobody knows for sure what will happen.

    "This is a trial-and-error approach to impact mitigation, and it essentially turns the vital ecosystems of the Mekong River Basin, and the lives of its people, into a testing ground for new and untried technologies," said Maureen Harris, Southeast Asia Program Director of International Rivers, a leading environmental group that works to protect rivers and the rights of people affected by damming.



    Internationally, environmentalists are calling for the Xayaburi project to be halted while further studies are undertaken to understand its impact. But for investors, a long delay only means more costs and a wait for profit.

    "If we want to study nature, it won’t be done even in 20 years because nature keeps changing. And if we delay the construction, the cost will go up. Construction materials will become more expensive and so will the project. It's not worth the investment," Anuparp said.


    In front of him, the Mekong was flowing through an enormous concrete barrage. Construction workers were going about their business as usual, oblivious to the waves of concern that continue to build.

    But for Anuparp, the sight was a constant reminder of the great potential of hydropower production which should be embraced due to a flood of economic benefits.

    Explore the whole series: Power Struggle - Damming the Mekong. Follow Pichayada Promchertchoo on Twitter @PichayadaCNA​
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  21. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    A brief update on the dam

    The lock is already operating
    The RV Champa Pandaw
    RV Champa Pandaw.
    on the maiden cruise Vientiane - Jinhong went through the lock a few days ago.

    The water level is raised 16 metres in the lock.


    here's the snug fit

    Here's the cruise details - Pandaw River Cruise Itinerary - The Mekong: From Laos to China

    As of yesterday upstream from Pak Beng, they have already had to replace the prop twice.
    It's an exciting first time adventure.
    • Like Like x 2
  22. brian_bkk

    brian_bkk Moderator Staff Member

    Excellent report.

    At Christmas while at Ban Mai Rimkhong.
    We got talking to one of the Guests. He works at the Mekong River Commission.

    Interesting to have the other perspective. As you only hear criticism of the MRC.

    As he rightly said..
    The MRC can only advise. It is each countries sovereign right to decide what to do at the end of the day.

    He does feel the MRC plays an important role.. The alternative would be conflict with out a body to discuss things through.

    Also Laos is responsible for a lot of the issues.. Not only China.

    As for what will happen with all these dams.. We will have to wait and see.

    One of the things he agreed with.. The MRC is not very good at getting the message out to the masses.
    So I promised myself to look at the MRC website more to keep informed.

    Home » Mekong River Commission

    Not only rely on the newspapers.


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