Vientiane Times, January 21, 2013
The European Union has voiced strong support for the Lao government’s policy of building sustainable hydropower plants to generate revenue for poverty reduction.
“The policy to develop hydropower in general we support very much. It’s a great idea,” Chargé d’Affaires of the European Union Delegation to Laos, Mr Michel Goffin, told Lao media on Friday while visiting the Xayaboury run-of-river hydropower project in the northern province.
The Lao government invited representatives of the Mekong River Commission (MRC) member countries and development partners to visit the first dam to be built in the Lower Mekong Basin. It is designed as an environmentally friendly and transparent dam, where all the water that flows into it flows out of it unchanged.
Mr Goffin said one of the main reasons for the EU’s support for the Lao government’s policy to build sustainable dams is based on the fact that hydropower development is also climate-change friendly.
The European Union last week signed an agreement with the MRC to provide 5 million euros to help the intergovernmental organisation, comprised of Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and Thailand, to tackle climate change in the region.
Mr Goffin also said Laos had to go down the road of hydropower development because of the country’s huge potential to build dams to generate revenue to reduce poverty, thanks to its numerous rivers and mountainous terrain.
“If you’re a flat country, it would be difficult to use hydropower,” he said.
To ensure the sustainable development of hydropower, Laos has to seek out information and employ advanced technology to address any negative environmental and social impacts.
“Europe has built many river-flow dams. Maybe they’re not the best. We did not consider all the environmental impacts at the time. There is this technology in Europe, Norway, Japan, and I think Laos is using that and it’s a very good sign,” he said.
Australian Ambassador to Laos Ms Lynda Worthaisong said the Australian government also supported the Lao government’s policy to develop sustainable hydropower plants in the national effort to reduce poverty. “Hydropower is a very important sector to the Lao PDR and that’s why the Lao government and its development partners, including Australia, do what they can to contribute to sustainable hydropower development,” she said.
Over the last four or five years, Australia has provided about US$15 million to regional water resources generally, some of which has gone towards hydropower and towards supporting good technical research to ensure that hydropower is sustainable, she added.
German Ambassador to Laos Mr Robert von Rimscha said Germany also supports Laos’ intention to build sustainable hydropower. This comes at a time when some European countries like Germany are considering whether to stop using nuclear power and look for sources of renewable energy.
“In Laos, we are very active. For example we have people who support the Ministry of Energy and Mines to teach them how to do sustainable use of natural resources. The goal is to find a good balance between using and preserving natural resources,” he said.
What the development partners want, he added, is for hydropower projects in Laos to be carried out according to the standards of sustainability, which means Laos must take care of the environmental problems and try to minimise them.
“You take care of the social aspects, and you try to come with schemes like at Nam Ngum 2, which is a very positive example. You allocate the money that comes from hydropower to reinvest it into the communities which are affected,” he said.