Laos dam goes ahead despite PM's assurance

LAOS has formally begun building a controversial hydroelectric dam on the Mekong River, despite the Prime Minister saying the project had been delayed.

LAOS has formally begun building a controversial hydroelectric dam on the Mekong River, despite the Prime Minister saying the project had been delayed.

"We held the ground-breaking ceremony today," said Rewat Suwanakitti, deputy managing director of Xayaburi Power, the company leading the project. "The Lao authorities told us we could begin construction."

The dam, the first of several planned for the river, has sparked concerns that it will irreparably harm fish stocks, an important food source for millions in Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam.

Electricity produced by the Xayaburi dam will be sold to Thailand, with Laotian officials counting on billions of dollars in revenue.

Prime Minister Thongsing Thammavong said on Tuesday the project was awaiting further study. But at the dam site, preliminary work is already advanced.

Work teams have been carving roads through jungle to the remote site and putting equipment in place for two years.

Environmentalists accuse Laos of ignoring criticism of the dam and pushing ahead with construction. Vietnam and Cambodia, which are downstream from the site, have called for a delay until environmental concerns are addressed.