Vientiane, Lao PDR, 29 August 2018 – The Mekong River Commission’s higher governance body today approved an overall implementation roadmap of a six-month prior consultation process for the proposed Pak Lay hydropower project during its two-day bi-annual meeting in Vientiane.

The MRC’s Joint Committee, whose membership comprises representatives at the head of departmental level from the four Member Countries of Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand and Viet Nam, began its meeting yesterday to discuss the management, organizational and cooperation matters as well as policy and strategic issues. The JC is charged with implementing decisions and policies made by the MRC’s Council, the organization’s highest decision-making body.

The approved roadmap presents key activities and milestones in the form of work plan to be carried out during the entire process, with stakeholder consultation being the epicenter. Two regional stakeholder forums and a series of national information sharing meetings, all of which are to discuss and document legitimate concerns, will be organized during the prior consultation process.

“Concerned members of the public are strongly encouraged to join the MRC’s stakeholder forums and national information sharing sessions during the consultation process to air concerns about Pak Lay. These are the channels you can have your concerns heard and addressed for the benefit of our basin’s health and people,” JC Chair Mr. Te Navuth said.

“The prior consultation is not the perfect mechanism, but this is the best platform we have.”

Te Navuth addresses the meeting of the Joint Committee today in Vientiane

JC Chair Mr. Te Navuth addresses the meeting of the Joint Committee today in Vientiane.

In the prior consultation process, as shown in the roadmap, there will also be a site visit to the proposed project, scheduled at the end of October 2018 as part of the second meeting of the MRC’s Joint Committee Working Group for the Pak Lay prior consultation. The JCWG is an advisory body to the MRC’s Joint Committee, with membership comprising senior technical representatives from the Member Countries.

The official prior consultation of Pak Lay is expected to cease by the end of March 2019. But it could be extended further at the request of the Joint Committee.

The meeting also heard key pending issues, including a joint action plan (JAP) for the Pak Beng hydropower project, review report on Xayaburi design changes, among others.

The JAP describes the post-prior consultation process of Pak Beng and provides mechanisms for on-going feedback, data exchange, and knowledge sharing between the developer and Lao PDR and the MRC and stakeholders concerning the on-going design, construction and operation of the project. The JC heard that Cambodia, Thailand and Viet Nam landed their agreement on the JAP’s final version and that Lao PDR is still consulting the version inside the country.

The review report on Xayaburi design changes is the result of the MRC Secretariat’s study to determine whether the recommendations from the prior consultation’s Xayaburi Technical Review Report by the MRC Secretariat have been taken up in the re-design of the Xayaburi project. Like the JAP, Cambodia, Thailand and Viet Nam have agreed to the current version of the review report while Lao PDR is still discussing with its line agencies.

The Joint Committee members also endorsed in principle an audit committee’s charter as part of the MRC’s effort to create an Audit Committee. The Audit Committee, whose members are technical experts from the Member Countries, is tasked with assisting the JC in fulfilling its governance and overseeing responsibilities in relation to Commission’s financial reporting, internal control system, risk management system and internal and external audit functions.

The current endorsement of the charter will pave the way for the MRC to establish the Audit Committee, which will then be approved by the JC.

The meeting, which concluded today, also deliberated on several other key issues, including follow-up actions on Siem Reap Declaration, progress on the review and update of the Sustainable Hydropower Development Strategy for the Lower Mekong Basin, and the finalization of the Guidelines for Transboundary Environmental Impact Assessment.

The MRC is organizing the first regional stakeholder forum on the Pak Lay project on 20-21 September 2018 in Vientiane.


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Note to editors:

The MRC is an intergovernmental organization for regional dialogue and cooperation in the lower Mekong river basin, established in 1995 based on the Mekong Agreement between Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand, and Viet Nam. The organization serves as a regional platform for water diplomacy as well as a knowledge hub of water resources management for the sustainable development of the region.