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MRC to review details of Laos’ dam

Khuon Narim / Khmer Times Share:
An artist’s impression of the proposed Sanakham hydropower project. Courtesy of Datang (Laos) Sanakham Hydropower Co Ltd. MRC

The Mekong River Commission (MRC) will begin consultations on Laos’ Sanakham hydropower project soon to check for its environmental, transboundary and other impacts on other member states.

MRC statement yesterday said the notification submitted to the MRC Secretariat by the Lao government included a set of engineering documents and technical feasibility study, documents on the project’s social and environmental impact assessments and sediment and fisheries study.

It said the documents will be shared with the other MRC member countries – Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam.

According to the notification, the project’s construction is expected to begin this year and finish in 2028, the year when commercial operations are also set to begin.

The run-of-the-river dam will operate continuously year-round and is expected to produce 684 megawatts of electricity.

The energy generated by the project will mainly be exported to Thailand.

“Laos submitted the project as an intra-basin water use around the year on the mainstream of the Mekong River, which is subject to undergoing the prior consultation process,” An Pich Hatda, MRC Secretariat Chief Executive Officer, said in the statement. “The submission will enable the notified member countries and members of the public to have detailed information to study the project’s water use and any potential impacts stemming from the project.”

According to the MRC, the Lao government submitted details of the Sanakham project for prior consultation on September 9 last year, shortly after it submitted details of its Luang Prabang dam project.

It said in order to ensure a meaningful consultation process, the commission’s Joint Committee decided to put on hold the consultation for Sanakham only after it finished the process for the Luang Prabang project.

Based on MRC procedures, after the submission, the secretariat has to review and verify the completeness of the submitted documents. With the technical review for the Luang Prabang prior consultation completed, the secretariat has now completed the initial document verification of the Sannakham

project and forwarded all the submitted documents to the other three notified countries for their review.

So far, 49 projects on the Mekong tributaries have been submitted for the notification process under the Procedure for Notification, Prior Consultation and Agreement. Three are from Cambodia, 30 from Laos, two from Thailand and 14 from Vietnam.

Under the PNPCA, any infrastructure project using the mainstream water during the dry season within the same basin, as well as during the wet season between two basins, must undergo the prior consultation process.

Applicable projects include large-scale irrigation and hydropower development which may cause significant impacts on the environment, water flow and quality of the Mekong mainstream.

So Sophort, secretary general of Cambodia National Mekong Committee, said yesterday the consultations on the Sanakham hydropower project will go through the same process as other hydropower dam projects that need to undergo the PNPCA “We will review the technical work of the project on whether it does impact the Mekong basin, including countries along Mekong River,” he said, adding that Cambodia will conduct the consultation with relevant ministries and stakeholders.

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