Vientiane, Lao PDR, 31 Jul 2020
Vientiane, Lao PDR, 31 July 2020 — A Joint Committee Working Group (JCWG) of the Mekong River Commission yesterday agreed on a starting date of a six-month prior consultation process for the Sanakham dam that Lao PDR had proposed to build on the Mekong mainstream. Picking July 30 as the kick-off date, the Group left the ending date open to create more flexibility in consulting stakeholders.
The JCWG – comprising senior representatives from the MRC Member Countries and acting as an advisory body to the Joint Committee in implementing the Procedures for Notification, Prior Consultation and Agreement (PNPCA) – made the decision during its one-day meeting held on July 30 in Vientiane via video conferencing.
“With suggestions from civil society organisations and lessons learned from the past consultation processes, as well as the ongoing Covid-19 outbreak, we want to ensure the Sanakham consultation is conducted in a more flexible, inclusive and meaningful manner,” Dr Somkiat Prajamwong, the Meeting Chair and Chairperson of the MRC Joint Committee for 2020, said as he closed the Meeting.
“We hope to provide more time and right means to the affected communities, CSOs and notified countries to participate in the entire process and to voice their concerns and suggestions for Lao PDR to consider.”
The 684-megawatts Sanakham prior consultation process will be enhanced in several ways.
The critical improvement is time, which will obviously be longer than a usual six-month period. The number of national stakeholder consultation will also increase from two to three or four, with a broader stakeholder participation. At the regional level, while the number of stakeholder forum will remain the same, at the first forum, stakeholders will see presentations of a first draft technical review report and a revised draft in the second forum. At each forum, they will have opportunities to provide comments and raise their concerns.
A field trip to the dam site and surrounding area will be in the agenda, too, and arranged for interested stakeholders during the consultation process. If travel is restricted due to Covid-19, innovative ways will be proposed so that the site is surveyed during the consultation process.
An online platform is also available for stakeholders to submit their comments and suggestions on the project to the MRC. Submitted comments will be provided to the Joint Committee — a body consisting of four Member Countries’ representatives at the head of department level where the consultation takes place — as part of the prior consultation.
Materials have so far been translated into the four riparian languages to facilitate richer discussion and more accessible information sharing.
All submitted data and information of the project, including environmental and social impact assessments and engineering documents, is posted on the MRC website for public access on this dedicated webpage: https://bit.ly/313eqVN.
The JCWG said during its gathering some of the submitted information contained “old material or was outdated”. The Group tasked the MRC Secretariat to work with the Lao Government and project developer to supply more and newer information to assist the consultation.
Dr An Pich Hatda, the MRC Secretariat’s Chief Executive Officer, noted the “prior consultation enables the notified states, potentially affected communities and related stakeholders to have detailed information about the proposed project, review it and raise their concerns on possible cross-border environmental and socio-economic consequences of the project. It also gives an opportunity for Lao PDR, as the proposing country, to better understand concerns and consider measures to address them”.
He stressed that “to prove our general and specific commitments towards each other and to stakeholders, it is essential for every party to demonstrate and honour the agreed commitments by implementing them in a due diligence manner”.
The Sanakham dam is the sixth project that has been put forwards to the MRC’s prior consultation process. The proposed location is between Xayaburi and Vientiane provinces in Lao PDR. The site lies about 155 km north of Vientiane, the capital of Lao PDR and approximately 2 km upstream of the Thai-Lao border in Loei Province.
Datang (Lao) Sanakham Hydropower, a subsidiary of China’s Datang International Power Generation Co. Ltd, is to develop the project, which is estimated to cost $2.073 billion.
Earlier this month, the MRC concluded the prior consultation process for the Luang Prabang dam, also a Mekong mainstream project that Lao PDR had proposed to build in the northern province of Luang Prabang.
Read the news in Khmer, Lao, Thai or Vietnamese.
Note to editors:
The MRC is an intergovernmental organization for regional dialogue and cooperation in the lower Mekong river basin, established in 1995 based on the Mekong Agreement between Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand, and Viet Nam. The organization serves as a regional platform for water diplomacy as well as a knowledge hub of water resources management for the sustainable development of the region.
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Mr Sopheak Meas, Communication Officer for Press
Mekong River Commission Secretariat
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