The Special Session of the MRC Joint Committee on the proposed Pak Beng Hydropower Project
Having triggered so far two prior consultation cases, namely Xayaburi and Don Sahong hydropower projects, both of which are on the Mekong mainstream in Lao PDR, the Mekong River Commission have recently reactivated the procedures for the third mainstream structure at the suggestion of the Lao Government. In both processes undergone previously, neither reached a consensus at any level of the MRC and the notifying country finally decided to go their own way on the construction plan.
After a 6-month period of initial consultation officially began on 20 December 2016 aimed at mitigating adverse impact on the environment and livelihoods of riverine communities both upstream and downstream, while achieving optimum use of water resources, on 19 June 2017, as required by the MRC’s Procedures for Notification Prior Consultation and Agreement (PNPCA), a Special Session of the MRC Joint Committee (JC) on the proposed Pak Beng Hydropower Project was held in Vientiane to mark the review of the first six-month preliminary outcomes of the official Prior Consultation (PC) process.
Aimed at providing the Joint Committee – the body at working level of the Commission structure, the only and formal opportunity within the official PC timeframe to scrutinize key recommendations of the final Technical Review Report of the proposed Pak Beng Hydropower Project (PBHPP) undertaken by the MRC Secretariat’s group of highly qualified and vast experienced international experts and results of regional as well as national stakeholder consultations, the Joint Committee discussion focused on measures of addressing the potential upstream and downstream impacts on hydrology and hydraulics including the backwater effects into Thailand; improving sediment transportation; improving upstream and downstream fish passage; gaining a better understanding of potential socio-economic transboundary impacts; ensuring the freedom of navigation; establishing a communication channel for providing inputs on the ongoing design and development of the project; sharing of improved designs and monitoring data, and MRC joint monitoring programme for Pak Beng.
As expected, national representatives of each member country in the Joint Committee have provided respective official statements on the proposed Pak Beng Hydropower Project that focused on key issues and great concern in relation to possible impacts caused by the planned structure as well as the effectiveness of its designs.
“It is our observations that the preparations for the project construction by the Developer was of moderate satisfaction, notably on the collection of data, the application of sound analytical approaches, the proven demonstration of the efficiency and effectiveness of proposed mitigation measures, and the development of a comprehensive monitoring program for both construction and operation stages. To our constant concerns, with such a below-par preparations, the Pakeng Project together with other mainstream structures (including those in China on Mekong/Lancang River) would result in serious cumulative impacts that in turn may cause unexpected disasters and incidents to valuable environment and bio-diversity on Lao PDR soils itself prior spreading further to downstream, particularly to the Mekong Delta’s parts of Viet Nam in the context of climate change, droughts, salinity intrusion that have been recently intensified in a more severe manner to this vitally important area of Viet Nam” Read Dr. Le Duc Trung, Director General of Viet Nam National Mekong Committee and Member of the MRC Joint Committee for Viet Nam, in delivering the official statement in the Viet Nam’s Reply Form at the meeting. To support in details the inputs from consultations conducted in Viet Nam, a documentation of Detailed Comments was also attached to the Reply Form (Copies of the Statement and Detailed Comments can be downloaded at below provided links)
The Joint Committee also agreed on an unprecedented Statement calling on ‘the Government of Lao PDR to make all reasonable efforts to address potential adverse transboundary impacts of the Pak Beng project’ and requests the Secretariat to prepare a Joint Action Plan outlining a post six-months prior consultation process (Its copy can be found at the below provided link).
The Meeting also noted with appreciation the Lao PDR’s spirit of cooperation and responsibility during the Procedures for Notification, Prior Consultation and Agreement (PNPCA) process for the PBHPP.