article from Guardian.co.uk
Plans for hydropower plant on the Mekong River threaten habitat of four of the world’s largest freshwater fish, says WWF
The south-east Asian nation moved this week to secure regional approval for the first major hydropower plant on its stretch of the river in the face of protests from international conservation groups.
Catfish the length of cars and stingrays that weigh more than tigers are threatened by the proposed 800m barrier, but the government said the economic benefits outweigh the environmental risks.
“We don’t want to be poor any more,” said Viraphone Viravong, director general of the country’s energy and mines department. “If we want to grow, we need this dam.”
If approved, about 90% of the electricity would be sold to neighbours Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia.
It is part of a major plan to expand the economy through the utilisation of natural resources. According to Viravong, 20% of Laos’ GDP will come from hydropower and mining by 2020, up from about 4% today.