KUALA LUMPUR, June 4:

The long delayed hydroelectric dam project spanning the Mekong River in Laos, being undertaken by Mega First Corporation Bhd, could finally kick off eight years after it was first mooted.

Bloomberg reported that four Mekong River nations are scheduled to meet June 26-27 in Thailand to discuss matters including Laos’ plan to build the Don Sahong dam.

Laos will push ahead with its ambition to become the “battery of Southeast Asia”, reported Bloomberg, despite the Mekong River dam drawing opposition from neighbours and threatens to involve China and the US.

The Mekong River’s length of about 3,000 miles flows through southern China, along the Laotian border with Myanmar and Thailand, and through sections of Laos. It then snakes its way through Cambodia and Vietnam until it empties into the South China Sea.

China, which opened its first dam on the Mekong about two decades ago, has seven dams along the waterway that are either in operation, under construction or planned, according to the Mekong River Commission.

Mega First, which undertook a feasibility study in 2006 and then agreed in 2008 to build and operate the Don Sahong dam, had said in April that construction of the dam is expected to start this year and finish in 2019.

It had originally forged a 70:30 joint venture with IJM Corporation Bhd, but the latter exited the partnership two years later in 2010 due to the prolonged delay.

“Laos remains committed to exporting hydropower and becoming the battery of Southeast Asia,” said Viraphonh Viravong, the country’s vice minister of energy and mines. “Hydropower is a natural choice for Laos.”

Being land-locked, “Laos believes it has few options to building up foreign exchange other than building dams and exporting electricity,” said Milton Osborne, a non-resident fellow at the Lowy Institute for International Policy in Sydney.

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