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Southeast Asia’s hydropower boom grinds to a halt as COVID-19 stalls projects

BANGKOK THAILAND: Incomplete and prospective hydropower dam projects in Southeast Asia, particularly along the Mekong River and its tributaries, are at risk of major delays and shutdowns as the COVID-19 pandemic impacts major industries, energy markets and worker safety.

The government of Laos has already ordered a temporary halt to all hydropower construction in the country, after a mining company worker tested positive for the virus. Planning consultations about future works, including the major Luang Prabang dam, have also been postponed. 

Amid possibly the worst regional drought in four decades and the worsening impacts of climate change, observers say the virus-driven impacts have further put the viability of large scale projects in question.

“Everyone is affected. The global economy is affected. The hydro sector is affected. The pandemic will hamper global supply chains, delay construction and temporarily reduce demand,” the Mekong River Commission (MRC) Secretariat told CNA.

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