Vientiane Times, 5 Jan 2015
A major milestone in construction of the US$3.5 billion Xayaboury Hydropower Project will be reached later this month when work shifts from the Xayaboury province side to the Luang Prabang province side of the Mekong River.
Preparations are under way to make the shift. Major work on the navigation lock, spillway and intermediate block has been ongoing on the Xayaboury side of the river since December 2012 and is nearly complete.
Stage 2 of construction will begin on the Luang Prabang side later this month when a coffer dam is put in place to shift the water flow. The exact date for the event has yet to be confirmed. High-ranking government officials are expected to attend the ceremony.
“Moving construction to the other side of the river will be a major milestone for this world-class project,” said Deputy Minister of Energy and Mines Mr Viraphonh Viravong. “This means the flow of the river will be shifted for the first time.”
“As this is a run-of-river project, the river’s flow will remain the same except for a few hours during the initial closing of the dam. A navigation lock will aid river transport and construction of technologically advanced fish passage systems specially designed for Mekong River species will enable fish to migrate up and downstream.”
In mid-2015, construction will begin on the powerhouse and fish passage facilities. Around the same time, the second phase of resettlement will begin. Six more villages will be built to accommodate families displaced by the dam, bringing the total to 15.
Completion of the stage 2 coffer dams is scheduled for June 2015.
The Xayaboury dam is the first run-of-river hydropower project to be built in the Lower Mekong Basin.
The project will not only play a significant role in driving economic growth in Laos but also contribute to community development in Xayaboury and Luang Prabang provinces.
As a result of the project, new roads are being built in the area. Local people affected by the project are being compensated with new houses, animals and crop seeds, and being trained in new farming methods.
Commercial operation of the 1,285 MW dam is slated to begin in 2019. The dam’s operational phase covers 29 years of the concession agreement from 2019 to 2048, before ownership is transferred to the Lao government.
More than 90 percent of the power generated will be exported to Thailand to earn foreign reserves that can be spent on reducing poverty. At the peak of construction, the project will employ 10,000 workers, the majority of them Lao. The government has engaged world-renowned experts to build the dam as a model project for sustainable hydropower development. Every aspect of construction and operation will follow international guidelines for environmental protection, safety regulations and socio-economic programmes.
Delegations from the Lao government and foreign countries, as well as international organisations and news media, have visited the site to see first-hand how a large-scale hydropower project can be developed in a sustainable manner.