Vientiane, Lao PDR, 6 November 2018 – The Mekong River Commission (MRC) Joint Committee Working Group (JCWG) for the Procedures for Notification, Prior Consultation and Agreement (PNPCA) and MRC Secretariat technical specialists met yesterday in Vientiane to discuss a first draft technical review report (TRR) of the proposed Pak Lay hydropower project. The meeting, which gathered 80 people, deliberated on the draft report and provided various recommendations.

“The recommendations are meant to help ensure that Pak Lay is a good project, designed to meet and to balance both the environmental and social requirements of sustainability and the economic benefit,” JCWG Chairperson Mr. Te Navuth said.

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Joint Committee Working Group Chairperson Mr. Te Navuth addresses the Second Meeting of JCWG in Vientiane, Lao PDR.

The TRR, prepared by the MRC Secretariat for the JCWG, provides an assessment of potential transboundary impacts of the proposed water use based on documentation provided by the Lao National Mekong Committee. The assessment looks at hydrology and hydraulics; sediment and river morphology; water quality, aquatic ecosystem health and environmental flow; dam safety; navigation; and socio-economic aspects. The recommendations touch on all these aspects.

For example, the JCWG, who is a technical advisory body to the MRC Joint Committee responsible for the implementation of the prior consultation process for the 770-MW Pak Lay hydropower project, suggested that a severe hydrological condition such as drought should be included in the hydrological analysis for lower reaches of the basin, not just around the project area. Updated data should be consulted with for sediment and river morphology analysis. This should include the use of sediment data provided by the MRC member countries, too.

There was another recommendation to use and share fisheries monitoring data from the Xayaburi hydropower project. In particular, the meeting suggested that potential transboundary environmental and social impact assessment and cumulative impact assessment (TBSEIA/CIA) should cover the Sanakham area in Lao PDR, noting that the current assessment is old and required updated by the project developer.

The meeting further proposed that dam safety during construction and potential transboundary impacts caused by the dam break or failure should all be considered and included in the TRR. This was made considering the recent dam break in Lao PDR’s Attapeu province. 

“Comments and guidance from the meeting are helpful for the Secretariat to improve the technical review report. This is what makes the prior consultation process meaningful because this is the official platform for member countries to come together and discuss,” MRC Secretariat Officer-in-Charge Mr. An Pich Hatda said.

The meeting also heard the development and plan on national information sharing workshop in the notified countries.

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A member of Lao delegation provides comments to the meeting. 

Cambodia and Viet Nam had organized their first round of national information sharing and consultation workshop on the proposed project in September 2018, while Thailand is holding this workshop late this week. The second round of meeting will take place in December for the three countries, who will then formally submit the workshops’ report to the MRC Secretariat to be included in the TRR.

Lao PDR held separate national consultation meetings during the project feasibility study.

At the meeting, the JCWG tabled for discussion the first regional stakeholder forum report and proposals for the organizations of the second regional stakeholder forum and third JCWG meeting.

The meeting suggested that the Lao government respond to certain issues raised during the regional stakeholder forum, including how the Lao government has considered lessons learnt from previous cases of the prior consultation process, whether it has approved the project EIA report, through an official letter that will be attached to the TRR.

There was also a suggestion that the member countries take a responsibility to manage stakeholder expectations and that responses to stakeholders be clearly written and identified in the TRR.

The meeting agreed that the second regional stakeholder forum will be organized on 17 January 2019 and the third JCWG meeting on 22 February 2019, all according to the implementation roadmap of the six-month prior consultation process agreed on by the JC in August this year.

As part of the meeting, members of the JCWG are, over today and tomorrow, conducting a field visit to the project location in the Pak Lay district of Xayaburi province to investigate the site.