On September 13, the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand, or EGAT, signed a Power Purchase Agreement for the controversial Pak Beng Dam on the main stem of the Mekong River. 

Located in northern Lao PDR, Pak Beng would be built on the Lower Mekong mainstream and is expected to  displace people in over 25 villages. It would also exacerbate the environmental crisis afflicting the Mekong River and the millions who depend on it. 

The US$1.88 billion, 912-megawatt dam is one of three Mekong River mainstream dam projects that have completed review processes and are eligible to begin construction. Four more proposed projects are in various stages of planning. Per last week’s agreement, 95% of the generated electricity will be sold to Thailand for the next 29 years, which is not needed given the massive oversupply of electricity in Thailand.

In response, a group representing residents of eight provinces in the Mekong Basin appealed to the newly elected Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisn, expressing concerns about the dam’s transboundary and cumulative impacts on communities along the Mekong. Backwater resulting from the dam’s construction could irreversibly alter the Mekong’s ecosystem affected communities upstream, they argue in a letter: “If the backwater effect takes place, the Mekong River will turn into a year-round reservoir, flooding areas on either side of its banks.”

Read Pai Deetes’s Op-Ed, “Future of Rivers in PM’s Hands”, originally published in the Bangkok Post