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Countries urge Laos to conduct dam impact studies

Pech Sotheary / Khmer Times No Comments Share:
Mekong countries say the dam would affect the environment and communities. MRC

Luang Prabang town, Luang Prabang province – Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam yesterday reiterated concerns over Laos’ proposed Luang Prabang hydropower dam project and urged the country to conduct more studies on potential environmental and social impacts.

The proposed project would be built in Houygno village in the province, approximately 25 kilometres from Luang Prabang town and approximately 2,036 kilometres from the Mekong Delta in Vietnam, according to an MRC statement.

The Lao government is aiming for the dam to produce 1,460 megawatts of electricity for export to Thailand and Vietnam.

The project is expected to begin next year.

Nearly 200 people representing Mekong river countries, civil society organisations, the academic community, the private sector and development partners are currently attending the 9th Regional Stakeholder Forum in Laos and the issue of the proposed dam project was discussed yesterday.

Sok Bunheng, a representative of the Cambodian National Mekong Committee, yesterday during the forum said more hydro-meteorological data on social and environmental impacts before the project should continue.

Mr Bunheng said these concerns are related to the impact the dam would have on safety and downstream water flow.

“[We] need analysis on the past impacts of downstream water flow during the dry season in the driest years,” he said. “Data should be shared, while climate change effects should be taken into account.”

“Baseline data of sediment transport at the dam site should be surveyed, monitored and documented properly before construction of the proposed dam commences,” Mr Bunheng added.

He then requested the Lao government and the dam’s developers to provide more data on potential impacts on the economy of affected countries and the people living there.

Mr Bunheng added the government and the developers will also need to draft an emergency mitigation plan for relief and compensation to people who could be affected by disasters caused by the dam’s operations.

“Cambodian communities near the Lao border have experienced disasters from the Yali dam and Nam Noy dams when they collapsed,” he said. “People in Stung Treng, Kratie and Kampong Cham provinces experience floods two to three times per year and sudden changes in water flow.”

Bunthida Plengsaeng, a representative of the Thai government, yesterday said the project should utilise an insurance scheme to cover damages and compensation should there be a disaster caused by the Luang Prabang hydropower dam.

Ms Plengsaeng also agreed more studies need to be conducted on how the dam could affect fish passage and breeding.

“The project’s water release plans should be shared with downstream countries so people can prepare,” she said. “The project’s water management data should also be shared.”

Representatives of Vietnam said the Lao government should consider halting the project and instead focus on renewable energy to meet power demands.

Saynakhone Inthavong, Lao deputy minister at the Natural Resources and Environment ministry, responded by saying: “The Lao government is highly appreciative of the valuable comments from all stakeholders under this process and will continue to address legitimate concerns.”

An Pich Hatda, chief executive officer of the Mekong River Commission, said all inputs were formally recorded and will be included in a technical review report.

“We hope the [MRC’s] join committee will issue a decision in the form of statement at the end of the 6-month process,” Mr Pich Hatda said. “The statement will call on the [Lao government] to implement measures on avoiding, minimising and mitigating potential transboundary impacts.”

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