Xayaburi, Lao PDR, 19th Apr 2016 - 19th Apr 2016
Xayaburi, Lao PDR, 19 April 2016 – Chief Executive Officer of the Mekong River Commission (MRC) Secretariat accompanied the German Ambassador to Lao PDR on the Ambassador’s visit to the site of Xayaburi dam on 19 April 2016 in order to gain a deeper understanding of the project.
The Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany, Michael Grau, accepted CEO Pham Tuan Phan’s request to join the ambassador’s visit to the construction site of the first hydroelectric power project on the Mekong mainstream in Lao PDR in the northern province of Xayaburi. The visit took place as part of the Ambassador’s two week familiarisation visit to the north of Lao PDR. At the project site the delegation was met by Deputy Managing Director of Operations and Maintenance at Xayaburi Power Company Limited (XPCL), Mr Anuparp Wonglakorn and Chief Resident Engineer, Mr Reinhard Riess of Pöyry Switzerland, Ltd., whom the Government of Lao PDR sub-contracted for construction supervision.
At the site visit Mr Wonglakorn and Mr Riess explained how the project’s design was influenced by the MRC’s dam design guidelines . In particular, Mr Wonglakorn outlined which modifications had been made with the aim of improving sediment transport and fish passage. He also highlighted how further specifications to the MRC guidelines had been necessary, something taken care of through the ongoing MRC work on “guidelines for hydropower environmental impact mitigation and risk management in the Lower Mekong mainstream and tributaries” and an anticipated update of the dam design guidelines in the framework of the 2016-2020 Strategic Plan.
Located approximately 150 km downstream of Luang Prabang, the Xayaburi dam is planned to have an installed capacity of 1,285 megawatts with a dam 810 m long and 32 m high and has a reservoir area of 49 km2 and live storage of 1,300 cubic metres. The primary objective of the Xayaburi dam project is to generate foreign exchange earnings for financing socio-economic development in Lao PDR.
The delegation was able to see the already operational navigation lock which is intended to function as a fish pass both up- and downstream during construction of the actual fish pass facilities. Passing from the right river bank across the partially opened spillway and intermediate block, the CEO and Ambassador were able to observe ongoing construction works of the powerhouse and fish passing facilities on the left river bank. The project is considered to be nearly 60% completed and XPCL expects to start operations in 2019 as planned.
During discussions the Ambassador was particularly interested to understand how a scheme like Xayaburi would alter flow regime and river habitat and what MRC’s role had been in facilitating dialogues among riparian countries during the 2010-2011 prior consultation process. Further, the issue of improving and sustaining livelihood conditions of the resettled population was addressed.
Since taking up the office, this is the first time CEO Pham has visited the Xayaburi dam site and he appreciated the opportunity. “I’ve found this visit truly useful as it provided me a lot of insightful information and deepened my understanding, especially on the current status of the construction of the dam,” said CEO Pham at the dam site.
Germany has provided both financial and technical support to the MRC since 1997 and the MRC has since been considered as one of its most important partners in Asia, particularly in the area of sustainable hydropower development.
The MRC received the notification of the Xayaburi hydropower development project from the Government of Lao PDR in September 2010 and the project underwent the prior consultation process under the MRC’s Procedures for Notification, Prior Consultation and Agreement (PNPCA) – the process that requires that the four countries come together with the aim of reaching a conclusion on the proposal within six months of its submission.
The MRC Secretariat acts as a facilitating body for the prior consultation process. It is the intergovernmental advisory body responsible for cooperation on the sustainable management of the Mekong Basin whose members include Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand and Viet Nam.
The 1995 MRC Mekong Agreement established the PNPCA, which states that Member Countries must notify the MRC’s Joint Committee in the event they wish to engage in any major infrastructure developments (such as hydropower schemes) on the mainstream Mekong or tributaries, particularly as those developments may have significant trans-boundary impacts on people or the environment downstream. The PNPCA process itself is the formal mechanism in place to enable one or more Member Countries to submit an individual project for regional consideration. The prior consultation process is one of a number of protocols in the 1995 Mekong Agreement to promote cooperation in sustainable management of the basin's water resources and avoid regional disputes developing.
For more information on the MRC PNPCA process, please visit the FAQs to the MRC Procedures for Notification, Prior Consultation and Agreement process.