Sanakham project prior consultation to start after Luang Prabang consultation ends in June
Vientiane, Lao PDR, 5 June 2020 – The scheduled conclusion of the prior consultation process of the 1,460-megawatt Luang Prabang hydropower project the Lao government has proposed to build on the Mekong mainstream in the northern province of Luang Prabang has now moved to 30 June 2020, according to a meeting of the Mekong River Commission.
According to the Special Session of the MRC Joint Committee (JC), organised yesterday in Vientiane through teleconferencing, the decision was made to accommodate more time needed for the Member Countries to discuss and agree on recommended measures to avoid, minimise and mitigate potential cross-border adverse impacts from the project, as written in the JC’s Statement and Joint Action Plan.
“Due to concerns and suggestions raised by Cambodia, Thailand and Viet Nam and other Mekong stakeholders and with the agreement from Lao PDR, we’ve decided to move the conclusion date of the Luang Prabang prior consultation process to June 30,” Dr Somkiat Prajamwong, Chairperson of the MRC JC for 2020 and Chairperson of the Meeting, said.
“The move is to also allow for a more meaningful conclusion of the prior consultation by ensuring that well-rounded comments and recommendations are provided to Lao PDR for their due consideration in addressing potential transboundary negative impacts resulting from the dam,” Dr Somkiat, who is also the Secretary General of the Office of the National Water Resources of Thailand, added.
In July last year, the Lao government submitted the Luang Prabang project as an intra-basin water use around the year on the main channel of the Mekong River, which is subject to undergoing the MRC’s prior consultation process. The six-month process officially took off on 8 October 2019 and scheduled to conclude on April 7. But due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the MRC’s governance body JC was only able to meet on June 4.
The Luang Prabang dam is the fifth project that has been put forward to the MRC’s prior consultation process. Located about 25 km from Luang Prabang town, the project will be developed by the Luang Prabang Power Company Limited — a company established by the Lao government and PetroVietnam Power Corporation under their 2007 MOU.
Sanakham prior consultation to start after completion of Luang Prabang consultation
The Joint Committee also stated the prior consultation process for the latest Sanakham hydropower project will take place once the Luang Prabang consultation has reached its conclusion, the same decision the body made late last year.
The Lao government submitted the 684-MW Sanakham project for prior consultation process on 9 September 2019, shortly after its submission of the Luang Prabang project. But as the consultation of the Luang Prabang was still ongoing at the time, the JC decided to look at the Sanakham project in June or after the end of the Luang Prabang’s case, to allow for a more thorough examination.
The Sanakham dam is the sixth project that has been put forward to the MRC’s prior consultation process. The proposed site is located some 155 km north of Vientiane and is estimated to cost $2.073bn. It will be developed by Datang (Lao) Sanakham Hydropower company, a subsidiary of China’s Datang International Power Generation Co. Ltd.
The MRC’s prior consultation process obligates an open sharing of extensive data, information and assessment reports of major national infrastructure projects on the Mekong mainstream, independent reviews by the MRC and stakeholders, consideration and improvements in the project design, and joint monitoring to track impacts that need to be addressed as part of adaptive management.
It aims to strike a balance between development needs and environmental and social protection.
“All of these aim to keep the proposing country engaged and accountable. The absence of the MRC and the prior consultation process would allow projects on the Mekong mainstream that may have significant transboundary effects to proceed without extensive information sharing or review by the public,” Dr An Pich Hatda, the Chief Executive Officer of the MRC Secretarait, said at the meeting.
Note to editors:
The Mekong River Commission 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.