Laos urged to better assess impacts, provide effective mitigation measures, as Luang Prabang dam moves forwards
Vientiane, Lao PDR, 1 July 2020 – Cambodia, Thailand and Viet Nam requested Lao PDR to conduct rigorous transboundary impact assessments and enhance proposed measures to mitigate potential adverse impacts from the 1,460-megawatt Luang Prabang hydropower project, as the Mekong River Commission concluded a six-month prior consultation process for the project.
At a Special Session of the MRC Joint Committee yesterday, the three notified countries said they appreciated the Lao government’s submission of the project for prior consultation, and its cooperation in providing additional data and documents and willingness to accommodate comments and recommendations from Member Countries and stakeholders. While the three countries recognised the sovereignty and rights of Lao PDR in making any decision towards the development of the Luang Prabang project, they requested that Lao PDR take due account of their recommendations outlined in their Official Reply Form.
“Further transboundary environmental impact assessments should be conducted, considering proper and effective mitigation plans and measures. Clear sediment management strategies and mitigation measures should be provided,” reads Cambodia’s Official Reply Form.
“There is a proposal to Lao PDR and project developer to establish an Endowment Fund and determine transboundary impact mitigation measures in terms of socio-economic, livelihood and environment,” reads Thailand’s Official Reply Form.
“The cumulative impacts of the Luang Prabang Hydropower Project and all the Mekong mainstream hydropower projects should be comprehensively assessed,” reads Viet Nam’s Official Reply Form.
Viet Nam noted that “the MRC and the Government of Lao PDR have shown improvement in supplementing documents, data and information, and upgrading impact assessment methods, including those for cumulative and transboundary impacts”.
To conclude the prior consultation process, the Joint Committee issued its Statement that represents the MRC’s position, calling on the Lao government to consider and address the comments and recommendations in a Technical Review Report and the Official Reply Forms of the notified Countries.
“The Statement reflects stakeholders’ concerns and suggestions gathered from regional and national consultations. It houses measures on how to avoid, minimise and mitigate potential transboundary adverse impacts from the project development by paying greater focus on coordinated operations of the cascade dams,” Dr Somkiat Prajamwong, the Chairperson of the MRC Joint Committee for 2020 and Chairperson of the Meeting, said.
Lao PDR, in an Official Response, stressed the country’s commitment to addressing potential negative impacts raised and to improving the project.
“The Government of Lao PDR remains committed to addressing key concerns and to welcoming further engagement, information sharing, site visits and joint monitoring to ensure that the project does not cause significant transboundary negative impacts and that it provides direct and indirect benefits to all parties and stakeholders,” Mr Chanthanet Boualapa, the Joint Committee Member for Lao PDR and head of the Lao delegation, told the meeting.
On dam safety, for example, he added that “Laos has revised its new Dam Safety Guidelines which meet and even exceed international standards, and all new projects including the Luang Prabang project must conform to these more stringent guidelines”.
Mechanism to monitor the project, as it develops, established
During the same meeting, the Joint Committee approved a post-prior consultation plan, known as Joint Action Plan (JAP), to implement the Statement and to offer a mechanism and platform for on-going engagement and regular reporting on the project development and operation.
“The JAP provides an avenue for the MRC, related stakeholders, Lao PDR and the project developer to start exchanging information, data, feedback and knowledge about the Luang Prabang project throughout its development and operation cycle,” Dr An Pich Hatda, the MRC Secretariat’s Chief Executive Officer, said.
In July last year, the Lao government submitted the Luang Prabang project for prior consultation, making it the fifth project that has been put forward to the MRC’s prior consultation process. The six-month process officially began on 8 October 2019 and was scheduled to conclude on 7 April 2020. But due to the Covid-19 pandemic and more time needed for consultation, the Joint Committee was unable to conclude only until yesterday.
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.
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