Vientiane Times, January 18, 2013
The Mekong River Commission (MRC) will continue to support Laos’ bid to develop hydropower on the Mekong mainstream as long as the projects are sustainable, according to a top MRC official.
“MRC is a framework and it supports sustainable development. In that context, if hydropower on the mainstream fits unto that framework, then obviously the member countries are in support of it,” said MRC CEO Hans Guttman.
The chief of the intergovernmental organisation that comprises Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam made the comment on Wednesday at the 19th Mee ting of the MRC Council in Luang Prabang. A series of MRC meetings, which began on January 14, ended yesterday after member countries and donor organisations reviewed last year’s accomplishments and approved a work plan for 2013. Laos is committed to build sustainable hydropower plants to generate revenue for poverty reduction and ensure sustainable growth of the national economy. Within its territory the country has the potential to build more than 100 dams with a total capacity of 30,000MW in the Mekong mainstream.
Mr Guttman said that current processes and procedures to deal with development projects in the Mekong Basin – embodied in the 1995 Mekong Agreement – are working effectively.
“I don’t think there is a need to amend the Agreement. The countries are working within that framework. Of course there are, on occasion, differing opinions on how exactly to move forward together. Of course that’s why the MRC exists.”
The CEO said that under the agreement, MRC provides a platform for the member countries to discuss their issues and agree to move forward in different areas of sustainable development.
Mr Guttman added that the MRC will continue its role in supporting cooperation between the countries towards the sustainable development of Mekong River resources.
He was asked why the MRC has appeared to remain silent while international development organisations and NGOs sought comment on the Lao government’s decision to build the Xayaboury run-of-river hydro project.
He replied “The MRC is not silent in the sense that we have a process of prior consultation that was initiated and undertaken. And we have to understand that prior consultation is a process for the member countries to come to agreement on specific conditions or circumstances of a particular initiative in order to minimise and avoid impacts, but the procedures in themselves are not a process for making decisions on a specific project because member countries are working as sovereign nations.”
“In the case of Xayaboury, being within the Lao PDR, it is the sovereign decision of the Lao government to decide whether they go ahead or n ot.
I have been following the decision they made of working with the other countries and discussing the potential impacts. And they have been working on trying to minimise, avoid and mitigate those impacts,” he added.