Don Sahong Hydropower Project
The Mekong River Commission (MRC) carried out prior consultation for the Don Sahong Hydropower project to discuss and evaluate benefits and associated risks of the project which may have significant impacts on the environment and people in the Lower Mekong Basin. The Don Sahong Hydropower Project will produce 260 megawatts of electricity and will be situated in one of the braided channels in the Mekong River’s Siphandone area of Southern Lao PDR.
The prior consultation started on 25 July 2014. The process was undertaken in response to an official notice submitted by Lao PDR, one of the four MRC Member Countries, on 30 June 2014, informing the other Member Countries, Cambodia, Thailand and Viet Nam, through the MRC Secretariat, of its intent to have the project undergo prior consultation.
The prior consultation was conducted by the MRC Joint Committee (JC), a governing body comprising one high-level government official at no less than Head of Department level from each Member Country, with technical and administrative support by the MRC Secretariat and the a working group.
The prior consultation is one of three procedures required for the development of different types of water-use projects in the Lower Mekong Basin as specified in the Procedures for Notification, Prior Consultation and Agreement (PNPCA) established under the 1995 Mekong Agreement.
What Will Happen During the Prior Consultation Process?
Once the Member Countries receive the prior consultation submission, the MRC Secretariat coordinates a technical review of the project’s submitted documents. The review will determine compliance with the MRC’s Preliminary Design Guidance for Proposed Mainstream Dams in the Lower Mekong Basin. During this time, the PNPCA Joint Committee Working Group (PNPCA JCWG)holds meetings to discuss related activities such as a road map of the project and a technical review of the project. The Joint Committee may hold a meeting to discuss the process. Field visits to the project may also take place if needed.
The technical review report, which may include findings from the national public participation meetings, will be presented to the MRC Joint Committee. After that, the notified countries will submit their official reply forms to the MRC Secretariat to have their comments on record.
The final stage is for the Joint Committee to hold a meeting to discuss the project prior consultation with an aim to reach an agreement to achieve an optimum use and prevention of waste of water, and to issue a decision that contains agreed-upon conditions for the project.
Even though public involvement is not a requirement of the process, the Member Countries have agreed to the importance of public participation, and national public consultations or information sharing meetings were held appropriately and according to national mechanisms and practices in the respective countries.
The MRC Secretariat held a regional public consultation, aiming to inform, involve and consult regional and international organisations, civil society, the media, research institutes and the MRC's Development Partners on the proposed Don Sahong Hydropower Project as well as the prior consultation process. It was an additional avenue for those who may not have the opportunity to participate in the national consultations or information sharing meetings held by each respective MRC Member Country. Members of the public, including civil society, could also submit their views, petitions and comments on the project during the process to the MRC via its website at: http://www.mrcmekong.org/stakeholder-consultations and the MRC ensured that these would be presented to the Joint Committee.
Views and comments reflected in previous and ongoing stakeholder participation mechanisms were also considered during the evaluation. The aim was for the Joint Committee members to be informed of public opinion and concerns raised both in their own country and in other neighbouring countries on a proposed project and then use this information as part of their consideration.
Voice your thoughts or ask questions about the Don Sahong PNPCA prior consultation process here.