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"Ground-breaking" ceremony held for contentious Mekong dam

Published on Nov 7, 2012 5:50 PM

XAYABURI (REUTERS) - Laos held a "ground-breaking" ceremony on Wednesday for a US$3.5 billion ($4.28 billion) hydropower dam on the Mekong River that is opposed by environmentalists and neighbouring countries because of the possible impact on livelihoods, fisheries and agriculture.

"We had the opportunity to listen to the views and opinions of different countries along the river. We have come to an agreement and chose today to be the first day to begin the project," Deputy Prime Minister Somsavat Lengsavad said at the site.

The poor South-east Asian country has ambitions to become the "Battery of Southeast Asia" through power exports from dams across the 4,900 km Mekong.

However, after pressure from its neighbours, it agreed to suspend the project last December, pending a study to be led by Japan. It is unclear if that study was done.

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