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ALONG the banks of the Mekong in Laos, the forest has been stripped and the mountainside gouged out. Construction of the Xayaburi dam, the first on the lower Mekong, is in full swing.

The dam, which will cost $3.5 billion, is being built by Ch. Karnchang, a Thai construction company, and financed by Thailand’s four largest banks. Over nine-tenths of the electricity from the 1,300-megawatt dam will supply Thailand. But WWF, an environmental NGO, has warned that the dam will contribute to the extinction of the endangered Mekong giant catfish, and put many other fish species at risk.

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