Vientiane Times, March 10, 2014
The Ministry of Energy and Mines on Friday held a workshop at the Don Chan Palace hotel in Vientiane, when the developers of the 260MW power project explained what they will do to address the potential impacts of Laos’ second dam on the Mekong.
Environmentalists from the Mekong River Commission (MRC) and various NGOs in Laos and neighbouring countries were present at the event.
The workshop provided project developers with the opportunity to receive comments from environmentalists as part of efforts to finalise the design of the dam. The dam is being built in one of the Mekong channels in the Khone Falls region, in the southern province of Champassak.
Speaking at the opening of the Technical Workshop on the Don Sahong Hydropower Project, Director General of the Ministry of Energy and Mines’ Energy Policy and Planning Department, Dr Daovong Phonekeo, said the government was seeking informed and constructive criticism.
“We are open to concerns about the potential environmental impacts, and social impacts, of this project. We stand ready to remedy or mitigate likely impacts,” he said.
At the workshop, environmentalists from the MRC and NGOs in Laos expressed concern that the dam would cause a number of negative impacts, especially on sediment and river morphology, water quality, social impact, and dam design and safety.
They were also concerned that the dam would lead to the extinction of the Irrawaddy dolphin, whose dwindling numbers include a small pod in the Mekong at the Laos-Cambodia border.
The Lao government has notified the MRC of its decision to proceed with the development of the Don Sahong Hydropower Project in the Siphandone area.
The energy generated by the project will be fully sold to the national power utility Electricite du Laos (EDL), to meet the increased demand for domestic power.
The government has completed its international obligations but is still open to comments from environmentalists and the MRC concerning the design of the dam.
“We will continue to be transparent and cooperate in good faith in the spirit of the 1995 Mekong Agreement. This is how we develop successful and sustainable hydropower projects in Laos, with safeguards for the environment and benefits for the people,” Dr Daovong said.
Laos plans to become a major supplier of electricity in the region thanks to its plentiful natural resources. The country has more than 23 operational hydropower plants with total installed capacity of 3,211 MW.
Laos has the potential to build hydropower plants with combined installed capacity of about 28,000 MW.