Vientiane, Lao PDR, 3 October 2013 -- The Lao Government has notified the Mekong River Commission (MRC) of its decision to proceed with the development of the Don Sahong Hydropower Project in the Siphandone area of Southern Laos. The run-of-the-river dam will operate continuously year-round and produce 260 megawatts of electricity.

In its notification, submitted to the MRC Secretariat and dated 30 September 2013, Lao PDR also provided the complete technical feasibility study , including the project’s social and environmental impact assessments and fisheries study which will be shared with the other MRC Member Countries—Cambodia, Thailand and Viet Nam.

According to the Government of Lao PDR, the project’s construction is expected to start in November 2013 and finish by February 2018. The commercial operation is set to begin in May 2018. The energy generated by the project will be fully sold to the national power utility, Electricite du Laos (EDL), to supply the increased domestic power demand.

“Lao PDR submitted the project as an intra-basin water use on the Hou Sahong channel under the process of notification. This will enable the notified Member Countries to foresee the project’s water use and any impact stemming from this,” says Hans Guttman, Chief Executive Officer of the MRC Secretariat.

As stipulated in the MRC’s Procedures for Notification, Prior Consultation and Agreement (PNPCA), the notification process mentioned above is one of the three separate prerequisites for the development of different types of water use projects in the Lower Mekong Basin. Notification is required for year-round intra-basin water- use projects and inter-basin diversion projects on the Mekong’s tributaries, and for wet-season water use on the mainstream. Information from this process helps Member Countries plan other water use projects.

The other two processes are Prior Consultation and Agreement. The Prior Consultation applies to proposed water use projects on the mainstream in the dry season, diversion of water from the mainstream to other basins during the wet season and diversion of surplus water to other basins in the dry season. The process for Specific Agreement is required for projects diverting water from the mainstream to other basins in the dry season.

The Lao government submitted a project description which provides a summary of the project’s main features. The submission also includes a cumulative impact assessment, environmental and social impact assessments, environmental and social management and monitoring plans, a resettlement action plan and engineering documents.

The MRC Secretariat has submitted the notification and will further provide the documents to the Joint Committee Members of the other three countries for their consideration.

“The PNPCA recognise the adaptive approach for its implementation. In this regard, the Secretariat will be available to facilitate discussion, provide science-based and objective views and further submit any comments on the notification to the Joint Committee,” said Mr. Guttman. “Lao PDR has indicated its willingness to further discuss the project with the other Member Countries should there be any concerns or comments.”

Until now, in addition to the Don Sahong notification 41 projects on the tributaries of the Mekong have been submitted for the Notification process under the PNPCA—3 projects from Cambodia, 17 from Lao PDR, 2 from Thailand and 19 from Viet Nam. The Xayaburi Hydropower Project is the only one so far to have been proposed on the mainstream and therefore submitted for the Prior Consultation process.

The Don Sahong Project is located in the Khong District of Champasak Province in Lao PDR and situated on the 5-kilometre long Hou Sahong, one of the braided channels of the Mekong River approximately two kilometres upstream of the Lao-Cambodian border. The powerhouse barrage will be 30-metre high and will span across the 100-metre wide downstream end of the channel.

The PNPCA is established under the 1995 Mekong Agreement. It reflects a commitment of the MRC countries to work together to protect the environment and the ecological balance in the basin and prevent harmful effects. For the purposes of the implementation of the Procedures, water use is defined as any use of water which may have a significant impact on the water quality or flow regime of the mainstream.






Notes to editor:

The MRC is the intergovernmental body responsible for cooperation on the sustainable management of the Mekong Basin whose members include Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand and Viet Nam. It is established to promote cooperation amongst the Member Countries and thus it is not a supra-national or regulatory body.

In dealing with this challenge, the commission looks across all sectors including sustaining fisheries, identifying opportunities for agriculture, maintaining the freedom of navigation, flood management and preserving important ecosystems. Superimposed on these are the future effects of more extreme floods, prolonged drought and sea level rise associated with climate change. In providing its advice, the MRC aims to facilitate a broad range of dialogue among governments, the private sector and civil society.

The MRC Secretariat provides technical, advisory and administrative services to the member states. It facilitates regional meetings of the Member Countries and provides technical advice on joint planning, coordination and cooperation. It also works closely with the four countries’ coordinating bodies, the National Mekong Committees (NMCs), and other state agencies. Currently, the People’s Republic of China and the Union of Myanmar are engaged as MRC Dialogue Partners.

Documents submitted by Lao PDR as part of the Don Sahong Hydropower Project Notification