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Laos does not violate Mekong Agreement: official
Publication Date : 14-10-2013
Developing the Don Sahong dam on the Hou Sahong channel of the Mekong River in Champassak province does not breach the 1995 Mekong Agreement, a senior government official has told local media.
Deputy Minister of Energy and Mines, Viraphonh Viravong, made the comment on Thursday, 10 days after the Lao government notified the intergovernmental Mekong River
Commission (MRC) of its decision to proceed with development of the 260MW run-of-river dam.
Some foreign media and environmental activists have alleged Laos is in violation of the Mekong agreement as it failed to conduct prior consultation with downstream neighbours before giving the project the go-ahead.
Viraphonh said Laos strictly abides by the 1995 Mekong Agreement for sustainable development of the Mekong.
Laos describes the Don Sahong dam as “an intra-basin water use” – a category in the agreement under which the developer is only required to notify downstream neighbours, not undergo consultation.
Viraphonh said Laos did not regard the dam as on the “Mekong mainstream”, which would require prior consultation.
He said the Hou Sahong was just one of 17 channels in the Siphandone area and water flow through the channel represented only 5 percent of total river flow.
However, Viraphonh said Laos would welcome discussion on any issues of concern.
“We are pleased to take reasonable feedback from our downstream neighbours into account,” he said.
Any issues can also be raised at MRC ministerial or senior officials meetings.
Viraphonh dismissed foreign media reports that suggested Hou Sahong is the only channel for fish migration during the dry season.
He said there were several channels that allowed year-round fish migration.
“I am confident that the project will have no significant impact on our downstream neighbours,” he said.
The authorities plan to invite representatives from media, non-government organisations and interested parties to visit the project site soon.
Viraphonh said the government had hired internationally-recognised consultants AECOM Australia-New Zealand and SMEC New Zealand to oversee the development.
Construction of the US$723.1 million project is expected to start next month and finish by February 2018. Commercial operation is set to begin in May 2018.
All energy generated will be sold to the national power utility Electricite du Laos (EDL), which will hold a 20 percent share of the 25-year concession, to meet the increasing demand for power in the south of Laos.