Russian Hydropower Project to Destroy Lao’s Xekong River and forest Ecosystems

Russian Hydropower Project to Destroy Lao’s Xekong River and forest Ecosystems

Russian Inter RAO State Company joins multintional group of “hydropowers” destroying natural riches and local livelihods in the Mekong River Basin.

According to Vientiane Times a Russian company will invest some US $850 million in the construction of the Xekong 5 Hydropower Project in Xekong province. A memorandum of understanding was signed in Vientiane on Wednesday between t he government and Russian company INTER RAO Engineering LLC, after being under study for the past 18 months. It is planned that construction will commence in 2016 and officials expect that it will be finished by 2020. Xekong 5, with a capacity of 330 megawatts, will require the relocation of people from more than 20 villages.

The agreement was signed by Deputy Minister of Planning and Investment, Dr Bounthavy Sisouphanthong, Ministry of Energy and Mines Office Head, Mr Xaypaseut Phomsoupha and INTER RAO Engineering LLC Vice President, Mr Masim Sergeev along with company senior official, Mr Andrey Mikhaylik. The ceremony was attended by the Russian Ambassador to Laos Mr Oley V. Kabanov along with relevant officials from the Lao and Russian governments. To successfully conclude the project, Dr Bounthavy requires the company to implement the project with agreement between the two sides as to the best approach going forward. He added that the project will further develop the economic cooperation between Laos and Russia, building on the long relationship that has already existed between the two governments. Likely this contract goes to russian firm as a part of Lao’s debt swap scheme promoted in 2012 when President Medvedev visited Laos.

According to WWF the Xe Kong River, and important tributaries such as the Xe Khaman and Xe Pian, encompass a wide range of habitats including high gradient upland habitats with rocky gravel substrates to lowland floodplain meanders with sandy substrate. These diverse habitats support one of the most species diverse and productive fisheries in the Mekong Basin. A taxonomic study organized by WWF in 2009 observed 137 fish species, 6 of which are new to science and another 4 species are potentially new to science pending further study. 20 of the fish species observed are potentially endemic to the Xe Kong drainage. The findings of this field research bring the total number of fish species recorded from the Xe Kong to 166. The freshwater diversity of the Xe Kong, including fish, mollusks, aquatic insects, crustaceans and turtles, all support important fisheries and are an important component of household food security and economy.
The Xe Kong River Basin is of outstanding global importance for biodiversity conservation. It supports populations of several priority species, including Asian giant softshell turtle, Asiatic softshell turtle, giant freshwater stingray, Jullien’s golden carp, green peafowl, white-winged duck and Asian elephant. The Xe Pian national park, including the Xe Pian and Xe Khampho Rivers (tributaries of the Xe Kong), supports some of the most intact lowland forests remaining in Southeast Asia. Xe Sap Protected Area will partially inundated by the project, which will also greatly improve access of poachers all adjacent forests.

Rivers without Boundaries

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