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Vietnam Seeks 10-Year Delay on Lao Dam Project

Chea Sophorn, 39, carries a fish basket at the Mekong River bank in Kandal province, Cambodia, April 19, 2011.

Vietnam has asked Laos to delay by 10 years the construction of a controversial multi-billion-dollar dam on the Mekong River to allow for more studies about its effects on the lives of millions of people who rely on the waterway for food and commerce.

Vietnam's natural resources minister, Pham Khoi Nguyen, made the announcement Wednesday in Hanoi, telling reporters that documents received so far from the Lao government were inadequate and lacked "realistic" statistical data.

Nguyen is the chairman of the four-nation Mekong River Commission, a grouping of experts from Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Thailand. The commission failed last week to reach a consensus on whether to support further consultations on the Xayaburi dam project.

Laos expects huge economic gains from selling most of the 1,260-kilowatt dam's power to Thailand, and has argued that further studies would not be practical. But environmental groups and other Southeast Asian governments say the dam will disrupt fish migration patterns down river and otherwise have a negative impact on the region.

The Xayaburi project is the first of 11 proposed dams on the lower Mekong. Ministers from the four countries are expected to hold further talks on the project in Laos later this year.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP.