Mekong River dam shelved

April 22, 2011 at 7:35 PM
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VENTIANE, Laos, April 22 (UPI) -- The world's largest freshwater fish, the Mekong giant catfish, was given a reprieve by the shelving of plans for a dam on the Mekong River, authorities say.

At a meeting of the Mekong River Commission last week, officials from the four countries through which the lower Mekong flows -- Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos -- failed to agree on whether to approve the proposed Xayaburi dam on the river in Laos, NewScientist.com reported.

The dam would threaten the catfish's habitat and would displace fisheries, wetlands and millions of people, opponents said.

The World Wide Fund for Nature says that as well as the catfish, which reach lengths of up to 10 feet, other species, fisheries and river connections would be at risk.

Laos, which wants to make money by selling electricity generated by the dam, faces stiff opposition from Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam, who have expressed "deep and serious concerns" about potential damage to the Mekong delta.

In a study published last week, the WWF calculated the same amount of electricity could be generated with less environmental impact from smaller dams built on tributaries of the Mekong.

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