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Laos urged to address dam project impacts

Pech Sotheary / Khmer Times Share:
MRC officials attend a meeting. Supplied

Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam have urged fellow Mekong River Commission member Laos to address cross-border and environmental impact issues following consultations on its Pak Lay hydropower dam project.

On Thursday, the MRC member countries agreed on a statement on the proposed project, after they concluded a six-month prior consultation process.

The statement called on Laos to make all necessary efforts to address and mitigate potential adverse cross-border impacts of the project by taking into account recommendations provided in a technical review report issued after the prior consultation process.

Le Duc Trung, chairperson of the MRC Joint Committee for 2019 said the statement demonstrates the committee’s accountability to the four countries’ leaders and people in the basin.

“It also reflects stakeholders’ recommendations resulting from regional and national consultations on how to avoid, minimize and mitigate potential transboundary impacts from the Pak Lay development and operation,” he added.

Watt Botkosal, deputy secretary-general of Cambodia National Mekong Committee, declined to comment.

In March, the Cambodian government found that Laos needed to further identify transboundary environment impacts and put in place proper mitigation plans and measures.

Cambodia also recommended that Laos should study issues relating to hydrology, sedimentation, dam safety, navigation, water quality, aquatic ecosystems, fisheries and fish passage as well as the socio-economic impact of the dam project.

According to the MRC statement, Thailand also asked Laos to pay special attention to potential socio-economic and environmental transboundary impacts from the proposed project which affects communities in eight Thai provinces.

Vietnam suggested that Laos should invest more time and resources on additional data collection and improvement of applied impact assessment to address possible impacts across borders in a more comprehensive manner.

“It also recommended development of a comprehensive program for monitoring the impacts of the project during construction and operation stages,” the statement said.

Lao representative Chanthanet Boualapa told the meeting his country is committed to addressing the issues raised during the meeting and welcomed future engagements to improve the project.

“The Lao government is committed to addressing your key concerns and welcomes further engagement, information sharing, site visits and joint monitoring to ensure that the project does not cause significant transboundary impacts and provides benefits to all parties,” he said.

An Pich Hatda, MRC Secretariat CEO, yesterday said an approved joint action plan will create an avenue for related stakeholders, the Lao government and the developer to exchange information and feedback throughout the development of the dam project and its operation.

According to the MRC, the Pak Lay Hydropower Project is located in Xayaburi province in Laos and is the fourth out of 11 hydropower projects planned for the mainstream of the lower Mekong River.

It’s been estimated that Powerchina Resources Ltd has invested about $2.1 billion in the project to build, operate and eventually transfer the dam to the Lao government.

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