Xayaburi mainstream dam on the Lower Mekong River, Lao PDR

Xayaburi - a battery for Asia? The Xayaburi dam irreversibly destroys livelihoods and ecosystems along the Mekong River, a life-giving vein of Southeast Asia.


The Mekong River, a vein of life in Southeast Asia, is among the most bio-diverse rivers in the world and a central livelihood source of tens of millions of villagers living nearby. The construction of the immense Xayaburi mainstream dam, located in mountainous Northern Laos, is drastically changing the life of millions of villagers, leading to irreversible, large-scale environmental destruction, while creating significant transboundary tensions between the Mekong countries Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand [1;2].

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Basic Data
NameXayaburi mainstream dam on the Lower Mekong River, Lao PDR
CountryLao PDR
ProvinceXayabury province
SiteXayabury district, Nam district, Luang Prabank district, Chomphet district
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Water Management
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Dams and water distribution conflicts
Land acquisition conflicts
Specific CommoditiesWater
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsThe dam has an expected capacity of 1260MW, a height of 32m, and a reservoir length of 60 to 100km [1;2;5].

The project requires an investment of around 3.5 billion US dollar [1;2].

The dam will be operated by Xayabury power company, whose biggest shareholder is Thai CH Karnchang company, Thailand’s second largest publicly traded company [1]. Other Thai consortium partners are PTT plc; Electricity Generating Company (EGCO); BKK Expressway and PT Construction and Irrigation [10].

The Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT) has signed an agreement to buy 95% of the produced electricity [1;3].For this purpose, a 200km long transmission line to Thailand needs to be constructed [1].

Key technology is provided by Austrian company Andritz AG, for which reason the company was filed an OECD complaint about their involvement in the human rights threatening project [9].

First feasibility studies were conducted by Thai TEAM consulting group and Swiss company Colenco [3]. Finnish engineering company Pöyry was hired to check compliance with Mekong River Commission standards, which became later on the construction company [3].

Required loans come from Thai banks Kasikorn Bank, Bangkok Bank, Krung Thai Bank and Siam Commercial bank [b]. These banks are financing the dam in spite of contradictions with their Corporate Social Responsibility Criteria [1;3].

Revenues for the developer CH Karnchang are expected to amount ot 3 to 4 billion dollar per year [2].
Level of Investment (in USD)3,500,000,000
Type of PopulationRural
Potential Affected Population2,100 displaced; 202,000 directly affected in Laos; 2,100,000 directly and indirectly affected in SEA; 60,000,000 people in SEA depend on Mekong fish stocks that will negatively change with the dam
Start Date04/05/2007
Company Names or State EnterprisesXayaburi Power Company Limited from Lao PDR - hydroelectric dams
CH Karnchang Public Company Limited (CH Karnchang PCL) from Thailand - invetsment, electricity, infrastructure
Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand International Co. Ltd (EGAT) from Thailand
Pöyry PLC (Pöyry PLC) from Finland - engineering, consulting, hydroelectric dams
Andritz Group from Austria
TEAM Consulting Engineering and Management Co., Ltd. (TEAM) from Thailand - consulting, engineering
AF-Consult Switzerland AG from Switzerland - consultancy
PTT Public Company Limited from Thailand - energy, eletricity
Electricty Generating Public Company Limited (EGCO) from Thailand - electricty, energy
Bangkok Expressway Public Company Limited from Thailand
International and Financial InstitutionsKasikorn Bank from Thailand - banking, finance
Bangkok Bank from Thailand - banking, finance
Krungthai Bank PCL from Thailand - banking, finance
Siam Commercial Bank Public Company Limited (SCB) from Thailand - banking, finance
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersAmong the many involved NGOs are: Save the Mekong Coalition; Thai People’s Network for the Mekong; Love Chiang Khong Group; Living River Siam; TERRA Towards Ecological Recovery and Regional Alliance; International Rivers; S3 River protection network. More than 263 NGOs called for stopping the dam. A full list of these NGOs is available in reference [8]
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)HIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
When did the mobilization beginPREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups MobilizingArtisanal miners
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
International ejos
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Local scientists/professionals
Fisher people
Forms of MobilizationCreation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Appeals/recourse to economic valuation of the environment
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Noise pollution, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Health ImpactsVisible: Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Specific impacts on women, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: Violations of human rights
Project StatusUnder construction
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCompensation
Strengthening of participation
Technical solutions to improve resource supply/quality/distribution
New Environmental Impact Assessment/Study
Development of AlternativesEJOs central aim is to stop the project
Do you consider this as a success?No
Why? Explain briefly.The project goes on.
Sources and Materials

1995 Agreement on the cooperation for the sustainable development of the Mekong river basin
[click to view]

Water and Water Resources Law Lao PDR
[click to view]


[1] International Rivers 2011. The Xayaburi Dam - A looming threat to the Mekong River. Factsheet. (accessed 05/03/2015)
[click to view]

[2] Vaidyanathan, G. 2012. Remaking the Mekong. Nature 478: 305–307
[click to view]

[3] Time line of events as compiled and published by International Rivers (accessed 06/03/2015)
[click to view]

[4] Herbertson, K. 2013. Xayaburi Dam: How Laos Violated the 1995 Mekong Agreement. International Rivers (accessed 06/03/2015)
[click to view]

[5] Grumbine R., and Xu J., 2011. Mekong Hydropower Development. Science 8 April 2011: 332 (6026), 178-179 [DOI:10.1126/science.1200990]
[click to view]

Further assessment of all planned Mekong dams: ICEM 2010: STRATEGIC ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT OF HYDROPOWER ON THE MEKONG MAINSTREAM FINAL REPORT. Prepared for the Mekong River Commission.
[click to view]

[10] Middleton, C. (2012). Transborder Environmental Justice in Regional Energy Trade in Mainland South-East

Asia. ASEAS - Austrian Journal of South-East Asian Studies, 5(2), 292-315.
[click to view]


[6] Phnom Penh Post article (18/09/2012): "Cambodians protest Xayaburi in Bangkok" (accessed 05/03/2015)
[click to view]

[7] Statement to Leaders of Asia and Europe on the Occasion of the 9th ASEM Summit. An Emerging Cross-border Crisis in Mekong: Stop Xayaburi Dam. 5 November 2012 (accessed 06/03/2015)
[click to view]

[8] 263 NGOs: Global Call to Cancel the Xayaburi Dam on the Mekong River mainstream in Northern Lao PDR (accessed 05/03/2015)
[click to view]

[9] Earthrights on the involvement of Austrian Company Andritz AG (accessed 06/03/2015)
[click to view]

Wikipedia on the Xayaburi dam
[click to view]

Media Links

Short video on the construction of the dam
[click to view]

Video: Our Living river - voices against Xayaburi
[click to view]

Other Documents

Protests agains the Xayaburi dam source: http://www.internationalrivers.org/files/styles/600-height/public/images/resource/kirk_herbertson/xaya.protest.03.jpg
[click to view]

Construction of the Xayaburi dam Source: http://www.eastbysoutheast.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/Dam-Pix-Main-Inside.jpg
[click to view]

Map of the dam Source: see International Rivers [1]
[click to view]

Meta Information
ContributorA. Scheidel (ICTA-UAB) / arnim.scheidel "at" gmail.com
Last update10/03/2015