Laos' Luang Prabang dam reaches key development stage

VIENTIANE (Vientiane Times/ANN) - The Luang Prabang hydropower project has reached another key development stage after the government asked the Mekong River Commission (MRC) to host the prior consultation on the project.

The government authorised the Vietnam Petro Power Corporation to build the Luang Prabang hydro plant in 2007. As the dam will be located in the Mekong mainstream, the government must request the MRC to hold a prior consultation on the project under the 1995 Mekong Agreement.

The Mekong River Commission, which is an inter-governmental body comprising Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand, announced on October 1 that it had received an official request from the Lao government to conduct the prior consultation for the 1,460MW hydropower project on July 31.

“With this submission for prior consultation, the Lao government fulfills its obligation under the 1995 Mekong Agreement,” the CEO of the MRC Secretariat, Dr An Pich Hatda, stated in a media release issued by the Commission.

“The submission will enable the notified Member Countries and members of the public to have detailed information and study the project’s water use and any impact stemming from this,” he added.

According to the media release, the Luang Prabang hydropower plant will be located in Houygno village in Luang Prabang province, about 25km from the provincial capital and about 2,036km from the Mekong Delta in Vietnam. The powerhouse barrage will be 275 metres long, 80 metres high and 97 metres wide.

Under the prior consultation process, with technical and administrative support from the MRC Secretariat, the MRC’s governing body Joint Committee will review technical aspects of the project, and assess any potential transboundary impacts on the environment and livelihoods among riparian communities, the MRC states.

Apart from that, the process will suggest measures to address those concerns. The Joint Committee aims to come to an agreement on how the consulted case should proceed.

The prior consultation process normally takes six months, but could be extended further by the Joint Committee. It is not meant to approve or disapprove the proposed project.

“The working and continual improvement of the MRC’s Procedures for Notification, Prior Consultation and Agreement (PNPCA) process is seen around the world as an example of international water law in action,” Dr Hatda said.

 “We’re also committed to maintaining the same level of openness and transparency to the public throughout the process. Regardless of one’s views on the project, I invite everyone who cares for the future of the Mekong River to join and contribute to the discussion, making your voices heard and documented,” he added.

Construction of the dam is expected to begin in 2020 and end in 2027, the year that commercial operation is also set to begin.

The run-of-river dam will operate continuously year-round and produce 1,460MW of electricity.  The generated energy may be sold to Thailand and/or Vietnam.

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