The Pak Beng hydropower project is proposed on the Mekong mainstream in the northern territory of Lao PDR. The run-of-river project with capacity of 912 MW and the average annual generation of 4,775 GWh is expected to produce power for domestic supply and export. The dam is located between the Jinghong hydropower project in China and the Xayaburi hydropower project in Laos.

The Lao National Mekong Committee Secretariat submitted on 4 November the detailed description of the planned project to the Mekong River Committee (MRC) Secretariat for its review and further action to inform the other member countries about the project’s scope and other requirements under the prior consultation process.

This first meeting of the Joint Committee Working Group (JCWG) on the Procedures for Notification, Prior Consultation and Agreement (PNPCA) on 12 January 2017 informed and discussed several key issues that require advanced proper attention and common understanding and agreement to ensure successful implementation of a six-month prior consultation process of the proposed Pak Beng hydropower project with the aim of increasing the joint benefits and cooperation among member countries and MRC Secretariat.

A Regional Stakeholder Meeting in February 2017 and a field visit to Pak Beng in April 2017 will be organized to exchange and share information, investigate the site, and discuss and document legitimate concerns.

The Mekong River Commission (MRC) is carrying out the prior consultation, starting on 20 December 2016. The consultation is conducted by the MRC Joint Committee (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 working group.

Prior Consultation Process

In the prior-consultation process, with technical and administrative support from the MRC Secretariat, the notified member countries would review technical aspects of the project, assess any possible transboundary impact on the environment and livelihoods along the riparian communities, and suggest measures to address those concerns. The member countries aim to come to an agreement on how the consulted case should proceed. It is not meant to approve or not to approve the proposed project.

The prior consultation is part of the MRC’s procedural rules on cooperation on water use of the Mekong mainstream: 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.

This process normally lasts six months, but could be extended further by the Joint Committee. 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.

Introduction Video on the Pak Beng Hydropower Project


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