The Mekong River Commission is scheduled to discuss the impact of the Luang Prabang hydropower dam project in Laos with Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam next month.
The discussion was scheduled in the first technical meeting on Tuesday in Vientiane by the MRC’s Joint Committee working group, whose members are senior technical representatives from Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam.
The MRC issued a press release yesterday, saying that the working group set November 8 as the kick-off date for a six-month prior consultation process of Luang Prabang, a 1,460 megawatt dam project. It said that the prior consultation will involve three regional stakeholder forums and a national stakeholder meeting in Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam.
It said legitimate concerns that will be presented to the joint committee will be documented, along with other types of information, for discussion and evaluation of the project. The first forum will be held on November 6 to share more information about the project, it noted.
“The MRC’s technical review will evaluate the project against the MRC’s preliminary design guidance for proposed mainstream dams in the lower Mekong basin and will identify gaps, if any, in the project documents submitted by Laos and provide recommendation, if needed,” the MRC said.
Truong Hong Tien, chairperson of the meeting and also deputy director-general of the Vietnam National Mekong Committee, said that the commission was informed by scientific studies regarding both significant benefits of hydropower development and its potential negative trans-boundary impact.
“The prior consultation enables the notified states, potentially affected communities and related stakeholders to have detailed information about the proposed project, review it and raise their legitimate concerns on possible cross-border environmental and socio-economic consequences of the project,” he said.
An Pich Hatda, chief executive officer of the MRC secretariat, said that the prior consultation is not a process to seek approval for a proposed project, but it is a platform for Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam to raise issues of concern on potential effects that the project may have on their territories, with technical review and analyses facilitated by the MRC secretariat.
“The process is also an opportunity for the Lao government who proposes the project to better understand the concerns and consider measure to address them,” he added. “To help improve the process, regardless of one’s views about the project itself, I highly encourage and call on all interested stakeholders to contribute to the discussion, have your voices heard and officially documented”.
In July, the Lao government informed the MRC that the Luang Prabang project’s construction is expected to begin in 2020 and be completed in 2027.