The Luang Prabang hydropower project is proposed on the Mekong mainstream in the Houygno village of Luang Prabang province, about 25 km from Luang Prabang town or approximately 2,036 km from the Mekong Delta in Viet Nam. It is situated between the two previously consulted Mekong mainstream projects: the upstream Pak Beng and the downstream Xayaburi projects. 

The run-of-river dam will operate continuously year-round and produce 1,460 MW of electricity. It is designed with seven turbines or generators, each producing 200 MW, and a number of auxiliary units using water from fish attraction flow that are capable of producing another 60 MW. The power plant is intended mainly for export to Thailand and Viet Nam. 

The project’s construction began in 2020 and is expected to finish in 2027, during which time its commercial operations also set to begin. The Luang Prabang Power Company Limited — a company established by the Lao Government and PetroVietnam Power Corporation under their 2007 Memorandum of Understanding — is named as the project developer.

On 31 July 2019, the Lao Government, through its Lao National Mekong Committee, notified the Mekong River Commission Secretariat of its intention to undertake the formal process of Prior Consultation on the Luang Prabang hydropower project. The notification includes the detailed description of the planned project for the MRC Secretariat to review and take further action to inform the other member countries about the project’s scope and other requirements under the prior consultation process. 

The MRC’s Joint Committee Working Group (JCWG) on the Procedures for Notification, Prior Consultation and Agreement (PNPCA) met on 8 October 2019 and picked this date as the official starting date of the six-month Prior Consultation process of the submitted project. The prior consultation process was scheduled to end on 7 April 2020. But due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Joint Committee (JC) was unable to meet yet to agree on the Joint Statement and Joint Action Plan. The next scheduled meeting is 4 June 2020.

The consultation is conducted by the MRC JC, a governing body comprising one senior 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 joint working group. 

Prior Consultation Process

The Prior Consultation is part of the MRC’s procedural rules on cooperation on water use of the Mekong mainstream governed by the PNPCA. Under the Procedures, any infrastructural project using the mainstream water during the dry season within the same basin, as well as during the wet season between two basins, must undergo the prior consultation process. Applicable projects include large-scale irrigation and hydropower development which may cause significant impacts on the environment, water flow and quality of the Mekong mainstream.

In the Prior Consultation process, with technical and administrative support from the MRC Secretariat, the notified Member Countries will review technical aspects of the proposed project, assess any potential transboundary impacts on the environment and livelihoods along the riparian communities, and suggest measures to address those concerns.

Member Countries aim to come to an agreement on how the consulted case should proceed. It is not meant to approve or disapprove the proposed project. 

This process normally lasts six months, but it could be extended further, if required, by the Joint Committee. The Prior Consultation is one of the three procedures required for the development of different types of water-use projects in the lower Mekong basin as specified in the PNPCA established under the 1995 Mekong Agreement. 

Introduction Video on the Luang Prabang Hydropower Project

Below is an introductory video on the Luang Prabang hydropower project that is made to aid understanding to stakeholders on the project.

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Voice your thoughts or ask questions about the Luang Prabang PNPCA prior consultation process here.