Vientiane Times, 31 Dec 2013
The policy on sustainable hydropower development is currently being upgraded and revised to ensure that hydropower development, as a central part of the development thrust in Laos, is truly sustainable in the longer term.
According to a press release from the Department of Energy Policy and Planning, on December 24, the draft Policy on Sustainable Hydropower Development (PSHD) was submitted for consideration to the Ad-hoc Committee for Drafting and Approval.
The final version of the PSHD is expected to be adopted by early 2014.
In order to ensure that hydropower development is sustainable and in compliance with the laws and regulations of the country, the PSHD is being updated with assistance from the World Bank, AusAid and IFC under the Hydropower and Mining Technical Assistance Project and Environmental and Social Standards Programme.
The programme is also aiming to increase both human and institutional capacity building and improve the monitoring performance of key agencies for the hydropower and mining sectors.
The Department of Energy Policy and Planning under the Ministry of Energy and Mines is in charge of close cooperation with relevant departments of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment as well as the Ministry of Finance towards the finalisation of the policy.
The PSHD’s objective is to provide policy guidance to the agencies responsible for overseeing the implementation of projects in the hydropower sector as well as to inform and encourage project developers to be aware of the government policy towards achieving sustainable development in the Lao PDR.
Towards that end, some laws, decrees, and regulations are being reviewed and revised to ensure effective utilisation of natural resources, including water, land, forest and other resources.
The draft PSHD has been updated based on the existing National Policy on Sustainable Hydropower and a plan of action is also being prepared by key agencies. It is expected that priority activities and capacity building will be continued throughout the period from 2015-2018.
To achieve socio-economic sustainability, the government views hydropower development as a key export commodity which can also meet domestic electricity needs, contribute to national socio-economic development and national security as well as improve the living conditions of the people.
Since May 2013, a series of technical consultation meetings and workshops have been conducted with key agencies; especially during the two day public consultation workshop which took place over the period from December 4-5.
About 86 representatives from key agencies, provinces, development partners, NGOs and project developers participated and provided inputs at the meeting. Overall, the participants agreed with the draft PSHD and expressed their appreciation for the Ministry of Energy and Mining’s efforts to move towards the sustainable development of hydropower.
They concurred that the ministry is taking the right approach by incorporating environmental and social safeguards alongside technical, engineering, economic, and financial considerations.