The Nation

The Lao government on Thursday provided clarifications and further information on major concerns about its Pak Beng dam.

Local consultations among the Mekong countries have including ongoing efforts to address the issues of backwater effects on Thailand, sediment transport, fish migration, and navigation lock, according to the Mekong River Commission (MRC).

The MRC Secretariat has organised on June 19 the 3rd Joint Committee Working Group (JCWG) for Pak Beng Hydropower Project Prior Consultation Process in Vientiane, ahead of the upcoming joint committee special session.

Relevant points raised at the meeting will be incorporated into the final technical review report and proposed at the session, which will conclude the six-month prior consultation process of the Pak Beng hydropower project, the MRC said.

The Pak Beng dam, is the third on the Lower Mekong that is designated on the Mekong mainstream. Hence it has to pass the consultation process under the 1995 Mekong agreement.

It aims to generate electricity with an installed capacity of 912 megawatts, but as it will sit on the mainstream Mekong the dam has become controversial, leading to calls for governance of this shared river.

The Lao government decided to submit on November 4, 2016 a detailed description of the planned project to the MRC Secretariat for its review, kicking off the consultation process.

At the meeting on Thursday, the JCWG members discussed the second draft of the MRC’s technical review report on the dam, and considered the outcomes of the national and regional consultations facilitated by the MRC Secretariat and National Mekong Committees, the MRC said.

The consultations addressed common concerns on the potential transboundary impacts, while generating specific issues and recommendations.

Among others, Cambodian stakeholders had recommended the need for a more thorough transboundary cumulative impact assessment and a mechanism for transboundary benefit-sharing.

Backwater effects leading to sudden water fluctuation and flooding and fish migration was raised by Thai stakeholders who suggested a mitigation and monitoring system.

Participants from Vietnam raised the need for more robust baseline data and integrated impact assessment considering other dams along the Mekong river.