Vientiane Times, April 19 2013
The Xayaboury run-of-river dam, the first dam to be built on the lower Mekong River, will not cause the extinction of freshwater fish species as some environmentalists fear, according to the project developer.
Xayaboury Power Company, which has won a concession from the Lao government to build and operate the 1,285MW hydropower plant in Xayaboury province, recently provided the Lao media with information that outlined how the dam will be equipped with special fish passage facilities. “A fish passage differs from a fish ladder whereby fish can naturally swim through the passage instead of jumping over each pool as in the case of a fish ladder,” the company says as quoted in its brochure. The company also says the Xayaboury dam will be equipped with a number of fish passage facilities, not just one as in other dams, so it is confident that fish will be able to swim up and down the river after the dam is built.
“These passages are designed with a natural setting in order to facilitate fish passing of all sizes and species across the width of the river in both upstream and downstream directions,” the company says.
In another move aimed at conserving fish species, the Xayaboury Power Company will set up a fishery extension unit to breed more fish and ensure stocks are maintained, in order to provide sustainable yields for fishermen along the Mekong River. Lao fishery officials say they can breed a number of Mekong fish species including the Giant Catfish, which they say are facing extinction due to climate change.
They said it was impossible that the Giant Catfish would disappear from the Mekong because this species will be farmed and released into the river.
The Lao government gave the Xayaboury Power Company permission to begin construction of the dam at the end of last year after Mekong River Commission member countries raised no objection to the project. The countries’ only concern was over the impact of the dam, including fish migration.
The Lao government redesigned the dam as part of efforts to address the concerns of neighbouring countries. The dam is set for completion in 2018. Once the dam is operational, it will generate a large amount of revenue for the Lao government, which will be used to reduce poverty. The government expects to generate nearly US$4 billion in the form of royalties, dividends and taxes throughout the 29 year concession period.