Consultation Period Extended for Fifth Mekong Mainstream Dam in Laos

The Mekong River Commission (MRC) says it has extended the consultation period for the Luang Prabang hydropower project, which would be the fifth mainstream dam in Laos.

In a statement released Friday, MRC Joint Committee Chairman Dr. Somkiat Prajamwong cited “concerns and suggestions raised by Cambodia, Thailand and Viet Nam and other Mekong stakeholders.”

Dr. Somkiat, who is also Secretary General of Thailand’s Office of National Water Resources, said the consultation period was now scheduled to end on June 30.

The statement said the COVID-19 pandemic had delayed the six-month assessment of the proposed 1,460-megawatt project, initially scheduled to end on April 7.

On Thursday, the Joint Committee – comprising senior water and environment officials from Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Viet Nam — decided “more time” was needed, the statement said.

This would allow member countries “to discuss and agree on recommended measures to avoid, minimise and mitigate potential cross-border adverse impacts from the project.”

Dr. Somkiat said a “more meaningful conclusion” to the consultations would provide Laos with “well-rounded comments and recommendations” to address “potential transbounday negative impacts resulting from the dam.”

The project is being developed by a joint venture between the Lao government and PetroVietnam Power Corp under a memorandum of understanding dating back to 2007.

The proposed site across the Mekong is about 25 kilometres from the town of Luang Prabang in northern Laos.

The statement meanwhile said that MRC consultations on a sixth mainstream hydropower project in Laos were now scheduled to start after June.

The proposed Sanakham hydropower project is being developed by a unit of China’s Datang International Power Generation Co., Ltd. and is estimated to cost US$2.1 billion.

Generating 684-megawatts, the plant would be located on the Mekong about 155 kilometres north of Vientiane.

Dr. An Pich Hatda, ChiefEexecutive of the MRC Secretariat in Vientiane, said consultations “aim to keep the proposing country engaged and accountable.”

“The absence of the MRC and the prior consultation process would allow projects on the Mekong mainstream that may have significant transboundary effects to proceed without extensive information sharing or review by the public,” he said.

MRC consultations apply to major national infrastructure projects on the Mekong mainstream. They require open sharing of extensive data, information and assessment reports as well as independent reviews by the MRC and stakeholders, consideration and improvements of project design and joint monitoring to address impacts.

Source: Agency Kampuchea Press