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MRC releases new guidelines for Mekong hydropower development

Dina Huon / Khmer Times Share:
The Sesan II hydropower dam in Stung Treng province. KT/Chor Sokunthea

The Mekong River Commission (MRC) released new guidelines yesterday assessing the risks of hydropower development through an assessment of five major themes.

This is the third volume of Hydropower Mitigation Guidelines, and the themes include river hydrology and downstream flows, geomorphology and sediments, water quality, fisheries and aquatic ecology and biodiversity, natural resources and ecosystem services, the statement said.

It mentioned that the guidelines are for hydropower developers, their consultants and relevant government agencies to help them to optimise benefits and mitigate social and environmental impacts from hydropower projects throughout their lifecycle.

An Pich Hatda, MRC chief executive officer said: “The aim of the guidelines is to provide risk management and mitigation guidance for the design and operation of hydropower facilities to support planning and management as well as immediate project development requirements.”

Pich Hatda added that the new guidelines are also an important addition to the MRC’s Preliminary Design Guidance (PDG) – a specific set of requirements to guide project design that developers use for project preparation.

During the planning, feasibility study and design process, hydropower developers can take various steps to optimise benefits and avoid adverse impacts, according to the guidelines.

Those include selecting the most appropriate project locations, adopting alternative project scales such as lower dams and using alternative energy sources.

Cambodia National Mekong Committee (CNMC) secretary-general So Sophort could not be reached for comment yesterday.

The statement added that over the last decade, intensive hydropower development has brought substantial economic benefits to the Mekong countries. That being said, the gains have resulted in trade-offs with other key sectors across economic, environmental and social spheres.

Cambodian Youth Network’s research and advocacy programme manager and environmental activist Sar Mory told Khmer Times yesterday despite hydropower’s benefits to the economy, it also produces negative impacts

“Hydropower dams reduce the Mekong River’s water level and cause an irregular flow, which affects the ecosystem; an obstacle that makes fish move naturally and decrease fisheries, and decrease sediments affecting Mekong agriculture,” Mory said.

According to the statement, the guidelines developed under the MRC’s former Initiative for Sustainable Hydropower went through numerous rounds of national and regional consultations with hydropower developers, interested stakeholders and MRC Member Countries, including Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam.

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