Mekong power plant talks set for today

Vientiane Times 19 April 2011

By Ekaphone Phouthonesy

The Mekong River Commission (MRC) Secretariat announced yesterday that the joint committee of Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam will host a special meeting to discuss construction of the first hydropower plant in the lower Mekong River.

The committee is meeting in Vientiane today to comment on construction of the 280 metre high hydropower dam on a section of the Mekong in Huaysoui village of Xayaboury province and Pakneun village of Luang Prabang province.

Following the meeting the committee is expected to release a media statement and allow journalists from Laos and foreign countries to ask questions.

MRC Environment Division Chief Mr Souraxay Phoummavong said the joint committee special session on the conclusion of the proposed Xayaboury power plant development project is based on an MRC agreement made in 1995.

“The agreement states that an MRC member will have to consult with other members if it wants to build in the Mekong mainstream because it may have a negative impact on others,” he told Vientiane Times , explaining that Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam share the mighty river.

He said the joint committee meeting would not make a decision on whether to allow or oppose construction of the 1,280MW capacity plant, but what it can do is provide a discussion forum to ensure sustainable development of the river.

“The main policy of the MRC is to ensure sustainable development and environmental protection along the Mekong River,” he said.

Mr Souraxay, who was a former senior official at the Lao Mekong River Committee, said MRC officials have received results of the project feasibility study from project developers and visited the project site.

According to officials, the Lao government has full rights t o make a decision on whether to approve construction of the dam since the project area is under the sovereignty of Laos. However, the government wants to do its best to minimise negative impacts of the project on other countries that share the river.

In 2007, the Lao government signed a memorandum of understanding with two Thai companies, Ch. Karnchang Public Construction Company and PT Construction Company, allowing them to conduct a technical study and survey of the project's environmental and social impacts.

The Thai government gave the green light to the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand to purchase electricity from the Xayaboury power plant development project last year in a show of support for the construction of one of the largest electricity generating facilities in Laos.

Project developers have begun to build roads to the project site, while the government is considering a concession agreement.

Developers expect construction of the Xayaboury Mekong hydropower plant to begin in the near future and take eight years to complete.