Vientiane, Lao PDR, 16 Jun 2017
Viet Nam’s Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Tran Hong Ha recently visited Lao PDR to meet with Lao Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Sommad Pholsena on the Mekong River Commission prior consultation for the Pak Beng Hydropower Project. They were joined by the Chief Executive Officer of Mekong River Commission Secretariat Pham Tuan Phan who was invited to participate and delivered a statement at this important event held on 12 June 2017. Both ministers seat on the MRC Council, the policy making body of the Commission.
Ministers Tran Hong Ha and Sommad Pholsena agreed that Viet Nam and Lao PDR would work with other MRC Member Countries and the MRC Secretariat to endorse a Joint Statement on the Prior Consultation on the Pak Beng Hydropower Project aiming to agree on proposed solutions to mitigate potentially negative impacts of the project to the riparian countries as well as to ensure harmonisation of the economic, social and environmental benefits of all countries and sustainable development of the Mekong River. The two Ministers also agreed that the MRC and the Mekong-Lancang Cooperation should soon establish a legal and technical mechanism for sharing information on operation and regulatory schemes of the hydropower projects under frameworks of both, the MRC and the Mekong-Lancang Cooperation.
The MRC has undergone two prior consultation cases so far – Xayaburi and Don Sahong hydropower projects, both of which are on the Mekong mainstream in Lao PDR. In both instances, neither reached an agreement at the MRC level. For Xayaburi, however, the process prompted the Lao PDR government and the developer to conduct their own environmental impact assessment and to invest an additional US$400 million to revise its dam’s design to address the issues of fish migration and sediment, two of the main concerns raised during the prior consultation.
The Prior Consultation on the Pak Beng Hydropower Project, the third Prior Consultation case for the MRC, officially began on 20 December 2016 and will end on 19 June 2017 in the Special Session of the Joint Committee wherein the Joint Committee Working Group (JCWG) will deliberate and then make recommendations to the Joint Committee based on the Technical Review Report prepared by the MRC Secretariat. This process normally lasts six months.
In addition to the technical meetings of the Joint Committee Working Group and national stakeholder meetings, the MRC Secretariat has also reached out to consult a broader group of stakeholders by successfully holding two regional stakeholder forums in February and May 2017.