The prior consultation process under Procedures for Notification, Prior Consultation and Agreement (PNPCA) is a requirement of the 1995 Mekong Agreement for countries to jointly review any development project proposed for the mainstream with an aim to reach a consensus on whether or not it should proceed, and if so, under what conditions.

Mainstream hydropower projects can bring significant benefits in terms of renewable energy and budget revenues, but can also cause environmental and social impacts on the local and transboundary scale. In combination with other hydropower schemes, those impacts can have a cumulative character.

The PNPCA process officially began on the day the last Joint Committee Member receives the submission from the MRC Secretariat (MRCS). The Xayaburi PNPCA process officially started on 22 October 2010.

From this point to the final decision, the consultation process took 6 months.

Who is Involved with the Xayaburi PNPCA Prior Consultation process?

Under the 1995 Mekong Agreement, prior consultation is an inter-governmental process. Several technical groups have been established to support Member Countries with the Xayaburi prior consultation. A Joint Committee Working Group of the MRC has been established to guide the MRC Secretariat and report to the MRC Joint Committee.

Within the MRC Secretariat, a PNPCA Task Group is undertaking a technical review of the project including comparison with MRC’s Preliminary Design Guidance. Input on specific issues is provided by external specialists including Expert Groups on Fisheries and Sediments that contribute to analyses that will assist the Joint Committee with reaching an agreement. The Joint Committee Working Group has initiated public participation as part of the process.

Public Participation

Public participation is considered necessary for the Xayaburi PNPCA prior consultation process as it aims to involve people in a process that may affect their future. Public participation aims to enable information on the full range of perspectives, concerns and expectations of relevant stakeholders, which will be presented to decision makers.

Prior to the start of the Xayaburi consultation process, MRC public participation on possible mainstream developments was included as a part of the Basin Development Plan and the Strategic Environmental Assessment processes, and approached related issues at a basin-wide and transboundary level taking into account cumulative effects.

The MRC prior consultation process supports the Joint Committee through technical review, analysis and during their public participation processes. Other Member Countries plan to hold public participation meetings within their countries at local and national levels supported by the MRC during January and February 2011. A number of consultations among affected groups were held in Lao PDR organised by the developer and government. Other groups also organised meetings on this issue. The perspectives and views of the people gathered during public participation were reflected in the MRC Secretariat briefings to the Joint Committee Working Group meeting and Joint Committee.

The focus of local public participation was to voice the perspectives of potentially affected groups that did not have the opportunity to be involved or did not have easy access to communication channels such as the internet or the media. 

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