Siem Reap, Cambodia, 8th Dec 2011
Water and environment ministers agreed in principle to approach Japan to assist with the study
The Mekong River Commission Council Members concluded that there is a need for further study on the sustainable development and management of the Mekong River including impact from mainstream hydropower development projects.
The Council Members, comprising water and environment ministers from Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand and Viet Nam, agreed in principle to approach the Government of Japan and other international development partners to support the conduct of further study.
The agreement was made in response to the outcome of a verbal discussion by the four Prime Ministers of the MRC Member Countries—Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand and Viet Nam, at the 3rd Mekong-Japan Summit held on the sideline of the 19th ASEAN Summit in Bali, Indonesia in November 2011.
At the Bali meeting, the four national leaders discussed the need for conducting further study for the sustainable management and development of the Mekong River and its related resources.
The four ministers made this conclusion at their annual gathering to discuss the prior consultation process for the proposed Xayaburi hydropower project along with other administrative and management matters.
“The outcome today demonstrates the Member Countries' continued commitment to work together in the regional spirit of the Mekong Agreement to bring about economic development without compromising sustainability of livelihoods of their peoples and the ecology,” said Mr. Kean Hor.
“Further study will provide a more complete picture for the four countries to be able to further discuss the development and management of their shared resources, said Mr. Lim Kean Hor, MRC Council Chairperson and Cambodia’s Minister of Water Resources and Meteorology.
In addition to Mr. Lim Kean Hor, other MRC Council Members gathered at the meeting were Mr. Noulinh Sinbandhit, Lao Minister of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, Mr. Preecha Rengsomboonsuk, Thai Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, and Mr. Nguyen Minh Quang, Vietnamese Minister of Natural Resources and Environment.
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The 1995 MRC Mekong Agreement established the Procedures for Notification, Prior Consultation and Agreement (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 if 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 individual Member Countries to submit an individual project for the 4-country regional consideration. In the case of the Xayaburi dam project, the Government of Lao PDR notified the MRC to begin the PNPCA process.
The MRC received the notification of the Xayaburi hydropower development project from the Government of Lao PDR in September last year. Under the PNPCA, the four countries consult each others on the proposal and then reach a conclusion, within six months since the notification, on how to proceed with the project.
Since the notification, the countries have conducted national consultations with related stakeholders including potentially affected communities to gauge their views and perspectives on the project. The MRC Secretariat also commissioned a team of environmental experts to review documents including the Environmental Impact Assessment submitted by the Government of the Lao PDR.
This 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.
The Xayaburi hydropower project would be the first such project on the Mekong mainstream downstream of China and would be capable of generating 1260 megawatts of electricity, mainly for export to Thailand.
The Xayaburi dam is located approximately 150 km downstream of Luang Prabang in northern Lao PDR. The dam has an installed capacity of 1,260 MW with a dam 810 m long and 32 m high and has a reservoir area of 49 km2 and live storage of 225 Mm3. The primary objective of the Xayaburi dam project is to generate foreign exchange earnings for financing socio-economic development in Lao PDR. The developer is Ch. Karnchang Public Co. Ltd. of Thailand who negotiated a tariff agreement with EGAT in July 2010.
The MRC acts as a facilitating body for this PNPCA process. It is the intergovernmental body responsible for cooperation on the sustainable management of the Mekong Basin whose members include Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand and Viet Nam. In dealing with this challenge, the commission looks across all sectors including sustaining fisheries, identifying opportunities for agriculture, maintaining the freedom of navigation, flood management and preserving important ecosystems.
After the six-month period required for the PNPCA’s prior consultation process, the four Member Countries met to discuss the proposed Xayaburi project at the Special Session of the MRC Joint Committee in April 19, 2011 held in Vientiane, Lao DPR. However, the countries could not come to a common conclusion on how to proceed with the project because there is still a difference in views on the matter. The Joint Committee Members agreed that the matter be tabled for discussion at the ministerial level or the MRC Council.
Mr. Surasak Glahan, Communication Officer
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