Asian Development Bank may back disputed dam

The Asian Development Bank is considering providing funds to a controversial 400 megawatt dam project in Laos that could have adverse impacts on the Mekong River in downstream Cambodia.

Conservation group International Rivers wants the Lao government to pull the plug on the $1 billion Xe Pian-Xe Namnoy dam because the firms developing it have not publicly released impact assessments and a resettlement plan, in violation of the country’s laws.

Christine Genalin Uy, an investment specialist at the ADB’s private sector operations department, said yesterday the bank was considering a funding request for the project on the proviso that these requirements were met.

“The results of the studies and the adequacy of the mitigation-management measures to be implemented by the company would determine whether ADB could consider the project,” she said.

But she did not respond to further questions regarding the amount of the potential loan or the timeframe to complete any studies.

Tania Lee, Lao program co-ordinator at International Rivers, said it was clear by the way the dam had been planned that it would be in violation of the ADB’s own safeguards.

“If they are going to finance a project, they should ensure the project is up to their own safeguard standards and not in violation of Laos’s law,” she said.

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