Opening Speech by CEO of MRC Secretariat - Regional public consultation on Don Sahong Hydropower Project

Pakse, Lao PDR, 12th Dec 2014

Excellencies, Distinguished delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen

As CEO of the Mekong River Commission Secretariat, it is my great pleasure and honour to welcome all participants to this Regional Public Consultation to discuss the Prior Consultation Process of the Don Sahong Hydropower Project.

Firstly, I would like to recall that Lao PDR under the MRC Procedures for Notification, Prior Consultation and Agreement (PNPCA) submitted the proposed Don Sahong Hydropower Project for Prior Consultation to the Mekong River Commission and would like to thank the government of Lao PDR for this to provide the opportunity to consult with other MRC Member Countries and the public on their views and concerns over the proposed Project to ensure comprehensive and inclusive cooperation toward sustainable management and development of the Mekong River as intended by the 1995 Mekong Agreement.

This is the second time that the MRC carries out the Prior Consultation following the Xayaburi Hydropower Project. Through Prior Consultation, views, concerns and recommendations regarding the Xayaburi Project were expressed by interested stakeholders. As a result of the Prior Consultation for Xayaburi some recommendations from the other member countries have been taken in to account by Lao PDR in the redesign of the Xayaburi Hydropower Project. But there were important lessons to be learnt.

If you may recall during the Xayaburi Prior Consultation, national consultations were conducted in Cambodia, Thailand and Viet Nam. However, the process was justifiably criticised from two points. Firstly the national consultations were inadequate to account for national practices and reaching a significant portion of concerned stakeholders. Secondly, no regional consultation was provided for those actors which did not have the opportunity to participate in the national consultations. However, for the Don Sahong Project, several national consultations/information sharing meetings have been organised by the respective National Mekong Committees and more are planned. In addition we have the opportunity to carry out a public consultation at the regional level like today. This regional consultation is organised by the MRC Secretariat and aims to provide an additional venue for regional and international organisations, civil society, the media, research institutes and the MRC’s Development Partners who may not have had the opportunity to participate in the national events.

At today’s Consultation, assisted by a professional facilitator, we will be briefed on the overview of the Prior Consultation under the PNPCA as well as the role and responsibility of relevant stakeholders. We will learn more about the Don Sahong Project from the Lao representative and the Project Developer on the detailed design and updated information on the proposed Project. We will also hear about the MRC Secretariat’s technical review of the Project;

We will have the chance to hear different stakeholders’ views, concerns as well as recommendations on the Project and possible impacts. We have the opportunity to propose practical solutions to avoid, minimise or mitigate impacts.

Excellencies, Distinguished participants, Ladies and Gentlemen,

At the end of this Regional Public Consultation, we hope that we will have gathered views, concerns and practical recommendations from different stakeholder groups. The MRC Secretariat will incorporate these into a Report to be presented in parallel with the Technical Review Report for the consideration by the MRC Joint Committee in concluding the Prior Consultation process.

Taking this opportunity, I would like to take this chance to thank the civil society, non-governmental organisations as well as the media for their interest and involvement in this process improving the understanding of the concerns around the project and providing constructive ideas on how to address the concerns. I would also like to express my sincere appreciation to the Development Partners and their representatives attending today’s Consultation for their particular interest in the Don Sahong Project and their continued support to the MRC.

Excellencies, Distinguished delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen

I am optimistic about our consultation today through active participation, friendly but frank discussion amongst all participants. I do not expect that we will agree on all issues, but I do expect that we will respect each other’s opinion and view points and make the greatest effort in trying to ensure that key concerns and important suggestions are considered in the further development of the Don Sahong Hydropower Project.

Finally, I would like to conclude my remarks by expressing my sincere appreciation to the hard work of the MRC Secretariat, with the support of the Lao National Mekong Committee Secretariat, to coordinate and facilitate the organisation of this event as well as the site visit to the Don Sahong Hydropower Project held yesterday.

In closing, I welcome you all and look forward to our discussions and deliberations.

Thank you.