Vientiane Times, 11 July 2013
The Lao government will meet all of its obligations under the Mekong Agreement as it plans to build more hydropower plants, according to a senior government official.“We have fulfilled our obligations under the agreement and will continue to do so,” the Lao National Mekong Committee (LNMC) Secretary General, Ms Monemany Nhoybouakong, said in an exclusive interview with Vientiane Times yesterday.
She spoke to the media after the LNMC Secretariat completed seminars on the Three Build Directive in which the 1995 Mekong Agreement was discussed for the benefit of central and local authorities around the country. The topic aimed to create better understanding among government officials from central down to grassroots level in order for them to put the agreement into practice. The secretariat will continue to hold similar workshops around the country as part of its efforts to implement international obligations, she said.
The Lao, Cambodian, Thai and Vietnamese governments signed the Mekong Agreement in 1995, giving legal authority for operation of the inter-governmental Mekong River Commission (MRC). The main purpose of the international agreement is to promote cooperation and support sustainable development within the entire river basin.
Under the 1995 Mekong Agreement, any MRC member country that wishes to use water or develop a major project on the mainstream of the Mekong River or its tributaries must follow Procedures for Notification, Prior Consultation and Agreement (PNPCA).
If a country wants to use water from Mekong tributaries in both the wet and dry seasons, it is required to provide notification to all MRC member countries. If a country wants to use water from the mainstream of the Mekong River in the wet season only, it needs to provide notification to the other member countries. However, a country is required to enter into prior consultations with other members if it wants to divert water from the Mekong basin to other areas.
On the other hand, if an MRC member wants to use water from the mainstream of the Mekong River in the dry season, it is required to engage in prior consultation with other member countries.
Before beginning construction last year on the Xayaboury run-of-river hydropower plant on the Mekong mainstream, Laos became the first, and so far the only country to undergo the prior consultation process with MRC member countries.
During the consultation proces s, MRC members expressed concerns regarding potential impacts of the Xayaboury Hydropower Project on fish migration, sediment flow and inland water transport. As a result, the Lao government redesigned aspects of the dam, committing to build additional fish-passage and sediment-flushing features.
Ms Monemany said the Lao government would provide MRC member countries with detailed information on the redesign of the dam in accordance with the requirements of the Mekong Agreement. She added that supplying these details would help members have a better understanding of the project and the modifications they have made to mitigate environmental impacts.
Laos has the potential to develop a total installed power capacity of 26,000 MW in projects on the Mekong and its tributaries. Development of clean energy to generate revenue for poverty reduction is a national priority.