Vientiane Times, February 05, 2013
The Lao government yesterday pledged close cooperation with the Mekong River Commission Secretariat (MRCS) to share all relevant and practical information on design changes to the Xayaboury dam in northern Laos.
Construction of Xayaboury dam is underway.
The modifications to the original design are being made in response to concerns of neighbouring Mekong River countries regarding sediment flows, fish migration, dam safety and operational issues.
“We are working to share all the relevant and practical information we have on the Xayaboury dam with them but this does not mean we need approval from the MRC. We are providing all our information so they can see for themselves we are following our commitment to address the concerns of the MRC member countries,” said Lao National Mekong Committee Vice Chairman Mr Viraphonh Viravong.
Mr Viraphonh, who is also Deputy Minister of Energy and Mines spoke to Vientiane Times after attending a meeting with the MRC CEO, Mr Hans Guttman and his delegation to discuss information sharing mechanisms.
At the meeting, experts from Poyry, the European engineering firm that provides consultant services to the government, told the MRCS officials that many technical reports are already available.
They also confirmed that more studies are underway detailing the work being done to ensure the environmental sustainability of the 1,285 MW hydropower plant that will provide clean energy and economic and social benefits for the people of Laos.
Last month, the Lao government told MRC member countries and development partners at the 19th Mekong River Commission Council in Luang Prabang that it would provide all relevant information on Xayaboury project, the first run-of-the-river dam in the Lower Mekong Basin.
At the Luang Prabang meeting, MRC members and development partners did not oppose the construction of Xayaboury dam but urged the Lao government to continue to improve the design and release data so they can determine if Laos is living up to its commitment to address their concerns.
Two major concerns raised by MRC member countries and development partners involve design changes aimed at securing fish migration and maintaining sediment levels. Other concerns include navigation locks and dam safety.
The government has already completed the MRC’s prior consultation process, following which it approved the commencement of construction of the dam on the Mekong mainstream.
After fulfilling the terms of the 1995 Mekong Agreement, which fosters cooperation among the four member countries, the Lao government continued to improve the design of the dam, hoping to address all of the concerns which the MRC member countries raised.
The government considers the concerns of the MRC member countries as valuable, because feedback helps to improve the design of the dam to make sure the dam construction is sustainable.
“We will be very open to sharing all the relevant information with you,” Mr Viraphonh told MRCS officials and technical advisers. “If you have good ideas, we want them, to make this an even better project,” he said.
The government has made a strong commitment to building a sustainable hydropower plant on the Mekong to ensure the growth of the national economy can continue, helping to lift the people out of poverty.