MRC discusses proposed Luang Prabang dam

VIENTIANE (Vientiane Times/ANN) - The Mekong River Commission (MRC) held a forum last week for Lao authorities to hold talks with other Mekong nations before going ahead with construction of the Luang Prabang hydropower project.

Laos last year submitted the hydropower scheme – another dam in the lower Mekong basin – for the Prior Consultation process as required by the 1995 Mekong Agreement. The consultation process will continue until April.

At the 9th Mekong River Regional Stakeholder Forum, which was held from February 5 to 6 in Luang Prabang, the Lao government presented details of the hydropower plant to representatives of Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand, civil society, academics, the private sector, and development partners, for comment.

In response to the Lao government’s engagement in the forum, representatives of the Mekong countries said they appreciated the government’s presentation of the facts for them to review.

They also wanted the government to address the potential impact of the Luang Prabang dam on downstream Mekong countries.

Lao government representatives said they valued the comments and suggestions from the countries concerned and forum participants, and that the government would consider their suggestions.

“We also want a good project that lasts,” a senior official from the Ministry of Energy and Mines, Mr Vithounlabandish Thommabout, said as quoted in the MRC media release.

“We’re working closely with the developer and its international engineering teams to further improve the design and mitigation measures following the feasibility stage,” Deputy Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, Dr Saynakhone Inthavong, said.

“The Lao government highly appreciates the comments from all stakeholders during this prior consultation process and is continually committed to addressing legitimate concerns.”

Proposed on the Mekong mainstream in Houygno village, Luang Prabang province, located about 25km from the town of Luang Prabang and 2,036km from Vietnam’s Mekong Delta, the power plant will generate electricity mainly for sale to Thailand and Vietnam when commercial operation begins in 2027.

In addition to discussing the possible impacts of the dam, the forum considered the draft Basin Development Strategy for 2021-2030, a 10-year strategic direction for development planning within the region.

This aims to optimise Member Countries’ development plans while minimising the risks and effects on the environment.

The forum said the strategy was ambitious but considered it proactive in tackling the real basin-wide issues.

Among the many recommendations they made were increasing stakeholder engagement, strengthening cooperation among the four MRC Member Countries, and increasing an open and transparent sharing of information.

The strategy is expected to be ready in the middle of this year after going through several rounds of regional and national consultations.

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