Vientiane Capital, Lao PDR, 5th May 2017
5 May 2017, Vientiane Capital, Lao PDR – About 200 participants of various stakeholder groups gathered in Vientiane Capital, Lao PDR for the Mekong River Commission’s (MRC) 2nd Regional Stakeholder Forum of the proposed Pak Beng Hydropower Project.
The forum provided an opportunity for civil society, non-governmental and governmental organizations, private sector, regional and international organizations to hear progress and responses on concerns raised in the 1st Regional Stakeholder Forum held on 22 February 2017 in Luang Prabang, Lao PDR. Participants also heard the preliminary assessment findings from the MRC experts regarding the potential impacts of the Pak Beng project on hydrology, hydraulics, sediment, dam safety, navigation, water quality, fisheries and socio-economic issues.
“Globally, it is recognized that stakeholder participation is critical to sustainable and equitable development. But effective involvement of stakeholders is perhaps even more important when it comes to planning and implementing of hydropower projects in the Lower Mekong River Basin” remarked Mekong River Commission Chief Executive Officer Dr Pham Tuan Phan. “The MRC recognises this, and is placing increasing emphasis on involving stakeholders in, not only its prior consultation processes, but in all its activities.”
In the first Regional Stakeholder Forum, stakeholders had the opportunity to gain insights on the Pak Beng hydropower project and the intended assessment methodologies for the review of the submitted documents. Representatives from member countries and various stakeholder groups sought more clarification to the MRC Secretariat, Lao PDR and the developer on various technical aspects of the project and the Procedures for Notification, Prior Consultation and Agreement (PNCPA) process.
“We remain open to your concerns, comments, questions and suggestions. We welcome the recommendations that will emerge from this Stakeholder Forum, and from the technical review of the detailed design and implementation” emphasized Mme Monemany Nhoybouakong, Vice Minister of Natural Resources and Environment of Lao PDR. “As was the case with the Xayaburi and Don Sahong consultations, we will remain open to your input even after conclusion of the required six-month review period. We call this ‘Post Consultation’. It means we will listen to your concerns without any time limit or deadline. If there is merit, we will act on it.”
The regional stakeholder forum is complementary to the national consultations and allows stakeholders who may not have the opportunity to participate in the national meetings to voice their concerns and learn more about the project and the Prior Consultation process.
At the forum, stakeholders discussed the preliminary concerns raised by MRC experts regarding impacts on hydrology, sediment trapping, impact assessment on aquatic ecology, fisheries attraction and passage, dam safety and navigation issues and potential knock-on effects of these changes to the society.
This is the third time that the MRC carries out the Prior Consultation following the 1,285-megawatt Xayaburi Hydropower Project and the Don Sahong Hydropower Project, a 240-megawatt dam.
The prior consultation on the Pak Beng Hydropower Project officially began on 20 December 2016 and will continue until June 2017, when the final meeting of the JCWG will deliberate recommendations to the Joint Committee. This process normally lasts six months, but could be extended upon agreement by the MRC Joint Committee.
On 4 April 2017, representatives from member countries gathered in Oudomxay province for the second Meeting of the Joint Committee Working Group (JCWG) on the Procedures for Notification, Prior Consultation and Agreement (PNCPA) for the Pak Beng hydropower project. Participants discussed and commented on the first draft Technical Review Report, including the data and assessment methodology in order to improve the Technical Review Report.
On April 5 2017, a site visit to Pak Beng Hydropower Project was organized for the Joint Committee Working Group (JCWG) to have first-hand experience and additional understanding about the condition of the project through direct interactions with the project developer, representatives of the Lao Ministry of Energy and Mines and local communities. At the forum, a video of the project site and village to be relocated was shown, and the stakeholders are invited to visit the site in the future.
The prior consultation process, stipulated in the 1995 Mekong Agreement, aims to mitigate adverse impact on the environment and livelihoods of riverine communities both upstream and downstream, while achieving optimum use of water resources.
All available information of the project including environmental and social impact assessments, engineering reports, and comments is available for public access on the MRC website at www.mrcmekong.org.
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