Intensive hydropower development in the Mekong River Basin has highlighted the substantial economic benefits for the riparian countries towards their economic development goals. However, there are trade-offs with other sectors across economic, environmental and social spheres as presented in the Mekong River Commission’s (MRC) cumulative impact assessment (The Council Study). It is therefore critical to optimise across the energy and water sectors for efficient and sustainable development.
In response to this dynamic situation, the MRC in 2008 established the Initiative on Sustainable Hydropower (ISH), a cross-cutting activity working together with the past MRC programmes implemented under the Strategic Plan 2011-2015. The ISH aimed at embedding sustainable hydropower considerations into the regulatory frameworks and planning systems of the MRC Member Countries and into project level planning, design, implementation and operational activities. It also explored and documented possible avoidance, mitigation and benefit and risk sharing options for sustainable management of the growing number of hydropower projects.
The ISH developed the Preliminary Design Guidance for Proposed Mainstream Dams (PDG) to provide a transboundary and international best practice approach to designing mainstream Mekong hydropower schemes. It also supported the development of the Strategic Environmental Assessment of Mainstream Dams, providing the Member Countries with technical advice on potential regional impacts of mainstream hydropower schemes.
Completed in 2016, the ISH conducted a series of studies to assist the Member Countries in making decisions on hydropower management and development within the integrated water resources management (IWRM) perspectives. Many studies and guidelines integrated gender issues to help inform the development of policy actions by the Member Countries. The ISH studies include: