The proposed project is a slightly scaled down version of the original plan to build a 265m high dam at the same site. The proposal sparked an acrimonious debate in the country’s national assembly. MPs postponed a vote against the government plans in March this year criticising the human and environmental costs.

If the national assembly next month approves the smaller hydroelectric dam, construction could begin in 2005 and take up to 15 years.

The proposed dam is to be built in the Muong La district, which is prone to earthquakes – another factor that has worried some MPs.