The governor of Ubon Ratchathani has stopped a private company from surveying an area eyed for a dam project out of concern it could harm bilateral ties with Laos.
Khampin Aksorn, coordinator of a Mekong conservation group, said she received a letter dated Feb 13 from the governor, which was also sent to the Thai company.
The letter said officials instructed Energy Absolute Plc to suspend its feasibility study and survey aimed at gathering information regarding a hydropower dam project in the lower Mekong River because no information about a framework of cooperation between Thailand and Laos was available yet.
Any move could affect relations between the countries as well as border security, Ms Khampin said, citing the letter.
Agencies dealing with foreign affairs and security should be provided with details of the survey so they can support such operations, she added.
On Feb 7, the conservation group petitioned the governor to look into the company’s survey of an area in Khong Chiam district which is being eyed for the construction of Ban Koum Dam across the Mekong River.
The letter also conveyed local residents’ concerns about the project’s potential impact on the environment.
Ms Khampin said that even though the governor has ordered the company to halt the survey, a similar survey on the Lao side of the border was still ongoing.
Fish stocks have been affected by changes to the Mekong River system following the construction of dams in China and the Xayaburi Dam in Laos, she said.
On July 29, 2020, Energy Absolute informed the Securities and Exchange Commission about the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Laos on a feasibility study of Pak Chom Dam and Ban Koum Dam.
According to the MoU, the company has co-invested with three other companies — Chaleun Sekong Energy of Laos, PSI Service Sole of Laos and Vega Digital of Thailand — to conduct a feasibility study of the dams within two years.
The Department of Alternative Energy Development and Efficiency has pushed for the construction of Pak Chom Dam in Loei’s Pak Chom district bordering Laos’ Vientiane province.
The dam will cost about 69.6 billion baht and should generate upwards of 1,079 megawatts of power. Construction would affect about 250,000 people on both sides of the border.