Vientiane Times, January 17, 2014
Senior officials of the Mekong River Commission (MRC) member countries will submit the Don Sahong Dam project issue to the MRC’s council to seek common ground, a senior government official said yesterday.
Officials met yesterday in Vientiane at a special MRC joint committee meeting.
Attendees expressed different views over the nature of the hydropower project Laos plans to develop at Hou Sahong channel, one of more than a dozen channels in the Mekong River’s Siphandone area in southern Laos.
At the meeting Lao delegates reiterated the government’s view that the project is under the category of notification procedure in accordance with the 1995 Mekong Agreement signed between the MRC countries – Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam.
But other MRC member countries are of the view that the project should be under the prior consultation process as stipulated in the agreement, Member of the MRC Joint Committee for Laos, Ms Monemany Nhoybouakong, told local media after the meeting.
She added the issue will be submitted to the MRC council, made up of MRC ministers, to seek common ground on the matter.
“Because of such different views, the meeting reached consensus to submit the issue to the MRC council to consider and give guidance,” Ms Monemany said.
Notification is required for year-round intra-basin water-use projects and inter-basin diversion projects on the Mekong’s tributaries, and for wet season water use on the mainstream.
The prior consultation process applies to proposed water-use projects on the mainstream in dry season, diversion of water from the mainstream to other basins during wet season, and diversion of surplus water to other basins in dry season.
At yesterday’s meeting, Lao senior officials explained the country is of the view that the project is neither a tributary dam project nor a mainstream dam project, given the Hou Sahong channel is just one of many braids of the Mekong River. In addition, the Hou Sahong channel only carries about 5 percent of natural total annual flow of the Mekong River.
They went on to say the project does not include a dam blocking the mainstream.
The Lao government submitted the project proposal under the notification process to the MRC Secretariat on September 30, 2013 together with the complete technical feasibility study – including the project’s social and environmental impact assessments and fisheries study.
Lao delegates informed the meeting that Laos welcomes other MRC member countries to regularly visit the project sites and follow up the development of the project to address any concerns.
“We will take any reasonable recommendations made by our neighbours into account in order to address their concern,” Director General of the
Department of Energy Policy and Planning, under the Ministry of Energy and Mines, Dr Daovong Phonekeo said.
The government will organise a fieldtrip – at least the second of its kind – for interested parties to visit the project site in March to see progress
“We are very open, there is nothing to hide,” said Ms Monemany.
Dr Daovong said the Hou Sahong channel is not the only channel that enables fish migration during the dry season, stating the Hou Sadam and Xang Pheuak channels also offer passages for fish.
Preparation work to develop the dam has begun with completion set for February 2018. The 260 megawatt project will be sold in its entirety to the
national power utility, Electricite du Laos, to supply increased domestic power demand.