Weekly insights into our crazy world.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013



Construction is underway in Laos on the Xayaburi Dam.  Laotian villagers watched in amazement. Hulking, immense Caterpillar Bulldozers leveled the once flourishing riverbanks.  It's true, nothing of this size has ever been built in the remote Southeast Asian nation.  As expected, Laotian Prime Minister Thongsing Thammavong was on hand for the opening ceremonies.  What a proud day!

Let's look at the numbers for the Xayaburi Dam.  The first dam ever constructed over the Lower Mekong River will cost $3.5 billion to complete.  Once built, it will produce 1,300 megawatts of energy.  (We here at the DUNER BLOG don't know what that means, but it sounds impressive!).  The face of the dam will be 32.6 meters (107 ft) high.  It needs to be 820 meters (2,690 ft) wide, as the Mekong is the 12th biggest river in the world.  In short, this is one massive project!

You're probably asking yourself: "What does tiny, poor Laos want a huge dam for?"  Good question.  The truth is: Laos doesn't need 1,300 Megawatts of power.  But neighboring Thailand sure does.  In fact a staggering 92% of the power produced by the Xayaburi Dam will go directly to Bangkok.  It's also funded by these same interests: The $4 billion is all organized by Thailand's four largest banks.

Your next question is: "Aren't environmentalists angry about damming the world's 12th longest river?" Another good question.  It turns out the World Wildlife Federation is highly skeptical of the "fish friendly turbines" championed by Poyry Engery Coorporation.  These babies had better work.  Around sixty million people upstream from the dam rely on the Mekong River for their food.  Unfortunately, this a very rural section of Asia, and these mountain folk are not exactly represented in any Congress.   Jian-Hua Meng, a WWF spokesman puts it more bluntly: "They are playing Russian Roulette with millions of people's lives.  This dam would not be acceptable in Europe, so why is it different in Asia?"  Another great question.

The reason why countries like Laos can get away with selling power to Thailand at the expense of their own people is simple: The Laotian military dictators in charge operate under the guise of being a 'Communist' nation.  This means they are somehow immune to international rules and regulations.  Other nations in this category include North Korea, Cuba and Burma.  These nations pretend to rule under a vague...yet highly moral...ideology.  Sadly, in reality, Presidents like Laos' Thammavong are just selfish despots who pocket money at the expense of their own people.  Such leaders have no place in our world in the year 2013.

No comments:

Post a Comment