Vientiane Times December 19, 2013
Construction of the Xayaboury hydropower plant in northern Laos was halted after the Mekong River rose to exceptionally high levels and water flooded a portion of the site on Tuesday.
Work on the dam’s spillway had to stop when water flowed over the temporary barriers and lower parts of the area were submerged, the Xayabouri Power Company, owner of the US$3.5 billion hydropower project, announced yesterday.
The Mekong River’s water level rose sharply and unexpectedly by around 3 metres over December 16-17, according to a statement from the company.
The statement said this sort of event was exceptional for this time of year. Water started leaking into the main construction pit on the morning of December 17 and by the end of the day the lower parts of the site were underwater.
Lao weathermen said they spotted heavy rainfall in southern China and northern Laos earlier this week. In Phongsaly province, rain was measured at around 100 millimetres. It was this unseasonal downpour that caused the Mekong River’s levels to rise.
The company said though a portion of the site was flooded, all mobile equipment had been safely moved to higher ground. No one was injured and there are no environmental impacts expected, the company said.
The company will pump the water out and resume work next week.
“Water levels are expected to recede by the end of this week based on forecasts for Luang Prabang. After that the water will be pumped out from the construction pit. This operation will take about one week after which construction works will resume,” the company said in response to inquiries from Lao news media on Tuesday.
Construction of the 1,285 MW Xayaboury hydropower plant on the mainstream of the Mekong River began at the end of 2012 after the Lao government addressed concerns raised by Mekong River Commission member countries.
Commercial operation is expected to begin in 2019. The project will create jobs for Lao people and the export of power to Thailand will earn foreign reserves to help reduce poverty in the Lao PDR.