VIENTIANE, Aug. 5 (Xinhua) -- Lao government officials have dismissed social media reports that the Xayaboury dam in northern Laos is slowing the flow of water to downstream sections of the Mekong River.
The dam is built on the run-of-river model, which does not require water to be stored, local daily Vientiane Times on Monday quoted Somphith Keovichith, Lao director general of the Department of Energy Business under the Ministry of Energy and Mines as saying.
Water inflow equals water outflow, which is the concept behind a run-of-river dam. Due to unseasonably low rainfall, the level of the lower Mekong and other rivers in Laos has fallen significantly, and rice farmers have been suffering the effects, Somphith said.
The low level of the Mekong has been attributed to unusually low rainfall in Luang Prabang province, some 220 km north of the capital Vientiane, Xayaboury province, some 300 km north of capital Vientiane, and in areas of the Xayaboury dam, some 350 km upstream of Vientiane capital.
From January to July of 2019, the amount of rain recorded was the lowest in the last 10 years, said Somphith.
According to an announcement issued by the company which operates the Xayaboury dam, a trial run of electricity generation was conducted from July 15 to Monday ahead of engaging in full-scale electricity production for the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat) by the end of 2019.
It has largely been assumed that water retention was needed for this test and this had a knock-on effect downstream.
The Xayaboury 1,285 MW river hydropower project, which is developed mainly by Thai companies and is to sell 95 percent of its electricity to Thailand's electricity utility, Egat, will be one of the largest run-of-river hydropower dams on the Mekong. Construction of the dam began in 2012 after Lao government completed a consultation process with other countries through which the Mekong flows, in line with the 1995 Mekong Agreement.
The government expects to earn 3.9 billion U.S. dollars from the operation of the dam throughout the 29-year concession period, including 1.897 billion U.S. dollars in royalties and 637 million U.S. dollars in taxes.