President Choummaly Sayasone ( front left ) strikes a gong to signify the start of construction of Stage 2 of the Xayaboury Hydroelectric Project.
Also present were representatives from the Xayaburi Power Company Limited and project shareholders, as well as officials from the relevant sectors.
Speaking at the ceremony, Mr Somsavat said the project would be beneficial for the Lao people and would not adversely affect countries downstream of the dam in the lower Mekong River.
He expressed admiration for the project managers, administrators, developers, construction workers, engineers and other employees, who had shown great responsibility in their endeavours to ensure the project's success.
Mr Somsavat also praised the ministries of Energy and Mines and Natural Resources and Environment, as well as the Luang Prabang and Xayaboury provincial authorities, for their cooperation in smoothing the path for construction of the dam.
He called on central and local government bodies, project managers and developers to oversee each stage of the project to a high technical standard and to comply with international safety and environmental standards.
The project should also aim to create sustainable job opportunities so that displaced families could increase their income and enjoy a better standard of living in their new location, Mr Somsavat added.
Xayaburi Power Company Limited said the river flow has now moved to the spillway and navigation lock.
In the middle of this year, construction will begin on the powerhouse and fish passage facilities. Phase 2 of village resettlement will get underway and six more villages will be relocated.
The Xayaboury project is the first run-of-river hydropower scheme to be built in the Lower Mekong Basin.
The barrage will be 35 metres high and 820 metres long with installed capacity of 1,285 MW and average annual energy production of 7,406 GWh.
Construction on the Xayaboury side of the dam began in December 2012 to build coffer dams, a spillway, navigation lock and intermediate block.
In December 2014, the navigation lock and spillway were completed and by year's end nine villages were resettled.
Commercial operation of the project is slated to begin in 2019. The project's operational phase covers the 29 years of the concession agreement from 2019 to 2048, before ownership is transferred to the Lao government
More than 90 percent of the power generated will be exported to Thailand to earn foreign reserves that can be spent on reducing poverty, with 6,985 GWh to be sold to Thailand each year and 420 GWh to be supplied to Laos annually. At the peak of construction, the project will employ 10,000 workers, the majority of them Lao.
The government has engaged world-renowned experts to build the Xayaboury project as a model for sustainable hydropower development.
Every aspect of construction and operation will follow international guidelines for environmental protection, safety regulations and socio-economic programmes.
The project will not only play a significant role in driving economic growth in Laos but also contribute to community development in Xayaboury and Luang Prabang provinces.
The economic impact for Laos will exceed US$4 billion over 30 years.
Reference from Website: http://www.vientianetimes.org.la/freeContent/FreeConten_Work%20begins.htm