Mekong River Commission

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Guidance for dam design founded on the principles of
integrated water resource management

While Implementation of the proposed hydropower schemes on the mainstream Mekong brings potential opportunities for economic development, mainly with improved electricity supply and navigation, the projects will inevitably be accompanied by major risks in the four Member Countries. Some of these may include:

  • The effects on the fisheries resources of the Mekong, especially the barrier effect that dams could have for migratory species, fish biodiversity and the subsequent consequences for people's livelihoods;
  • Effects on sediment and river morphology, with associated risks to the economic life of the mainstream impoundment of water and safe operation, and effects on long-term river bed stability, river bank erosion and channel changes in the downstream reaches; and
  • Potential water quality changes, especially with regard to water pollution and effects on aquatic ecosystem functions and services, as well as wetland systems.

Any mainstream development, such as the proposed 11 mainstream hydropower dams, are subject to rigorous prior consultation that aims at arriving at an agreement by the Joint Committee of the MRC. The National Mekong Committees are the submitting parties. The PNPCA process is triggered when the preparation of a mainstream dam advances to the stage where the Member Country makes a submission to the MRC. It will be applied to each project.

As part of the process of helping Member Countries understand the long-term potential impacts of hydropower, the MRC is helping to assess the balance between opportunity and risk for these proposed projects to highlight a range of key issues that need to be considered by developers at the project design stage; as well as by MRC Bodies, government line-agencies and other stakeholders when any proposed hydropower scheme is submitted for the MRC prior consultation process. This preliminary guidance includes a range of minimum standards, performance targets and best practices for reducing the environmental and social risks posed by hydropower schemes. Read the design guidance report »


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