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12 Jul 2014

Michelle Nijhuis, National Geographic

Dam Projects Ignite a Legal Battle Over Mekong River’s Future

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…[T]he Xayaburi project, along with several other large dams proposed downstream, are vehemently opposed…because of their threats to the river and those who depend on it…In June,…a Thai national court agreed to hear a lawsuit by 37 villagers who are challenging the Thai government's plans to buy most of the power…In 2012, when the villagers initiated their lawsuit against five Thai government agencies, they alleged that the government's plans to buy electricity generated by the Xayaburi Dam violated…the 1995 Mekong Agreement, a nonbinding commitment to cooperative river management signed by Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam.  In February 2013, an administrative court declined to hear the case…The villagers appealed to Thailand's Supreme Administrative Court, and on June 24, the court agreed with their contention that…EGAT…had failed to properly notify the public about the Xayaburi project and had not conducted an adequate environmental assessment…The court's recognition of the villagers' stake in the issue does not halt construction, but it has…financial implications for the Xayaburi, whose future depends in large part on the confidence of its Thai backers…