Vientiane Times, June 14, 2013
Amid rising demand for power, the proposed Don Sahong dam will play a significant role in securing the supply of electricity for domestic and industrial use in the southern part of Laos.
The project will have an installed capacity of 256 MW and be capable of generating more than 2,000 GWh of electricity per year, according to a senior electrical engineer of Mega First Corporation Berhad (MFCB), a Malaysian company that is seeking to develop the run-of-river dam on a branch of the Mekong.
The hydropower plant will supply energy to the Electricite du Laos (EDL) grid for Champassak and surrounding provinces, a part of the country facing a rapid increase in demand for electricity due to economic growth. The region is becoming a hub of economic development in the south of Laos.
Most of the hydropower projects built in the Lao PDR with foreign investment are designed to export electricity to Thailand. The Don Sahong project is one of the first in which the Lao government is encouraging investors to produce clean energy for domestic consumption.
The proposed Don Sahong dam is located in the Siphandone area where the Mekong River splits into six channels and plunges into natural waterfalls before reaching Cambodia. The hydropower project would lie entirely within one of the six channels, the Hou Sahong, a 5km long passage between Don Sadam and Don Sahong islands.
The run-of-river dam will extend across the Hou Sahong from bank to bank, according to MFCB Senior Environmental Manager, Dr Peter Hawkins. It will not block the main channel of the Mekong, which means the river flow will be uncontrolled, so that water, sediment and fish can all follow many alternative pathways downstream, bypassing the dam, he said.
“The Don Sahong Hydropower Project is in a unique site because it will cover 100 metres but the width of the Mekong in this area is about 10,000 metres,” he explained to senior Lao energy officials on Sunday. “It will have a very small reservoir, which will behave much like existing deep pools in the Mekong and not alter water quality,” Dr Hawkins said.
A study begun in 2006 found the number of fish migrating through the Siphandone area had declined over the past 20 years largely due to manmade barriers and overfishing.
The developer enlisted the aid of local authorities and residents to clear blocked channels and remove fish traps that have prevented fish from reaching spawning grounds. According to the project developers, no manmade fish ladders or fish lifts are needed for the Don Sahong project because other channels of the river will function as “a natural fish ladder.”