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A Basin-Wide Approach to Hydropower Decision Making

MRC No. 17/08
Vientiane, Lao PDR
25 September, 2008

The planning process involved in the development of hydropower dams in the Mekong region needs to include expertise and views from a wide range of interested parties, according to participants at a consultation meeting in Vientiane today.

The Mekong River Commission (MRC) Secretariat opened the Regional Multi-Stakeholder Consultation on its Hydropower Programme in the Lao capital, bringing together over 200 representatives from governmental agencies, private sector companies and financing agencies, NGOs and civil society groups, international organisations and the donor agencies that support the MRC as development partners. The meeting runs from September 25-27.

According to MRC Joint Committee member for the Lao PDR, Mr Chantavong Saignasith, the MRC provides decision-makers in the four Lower Mekong countries, Cambodia, the Lao PDR, Thailand and Viet Nam, with a sound knowledge platform, enabling them to assess the gains and impacts of each hydropower proposal in a basin-wide context. This includes scientific input from many different fields and sources across the Mekong region, from village-level fisheries research to international navigation experience. The MRC can source and provide such data, and assesses plans for various power-generating scenarios through integrated modelling tools.

Presentations to the meeting were made by participants from all stakeholder sectors, including national electricity enterprises from the MRC member states, environmental advocacy groups, developers, and National Mekong Committees. Hydropower industry experts from China and outside Asia also attended the consultation.

Mr Chantavong said that hydroelectricity has long been recognised as one of the cleanest, most sustainable and, in the long run, least expensive methods of generating power. Acknowledging there are negative impacts associated with hydropower, he said it was therefore important that the Lower Mekong countries were able to study the benefits and costs associated with building dams before making decisions.

The MRC Hydropower Programme is being designed to assist with this decision-making process, and to help set up mechanisms that can make sure all the countries’ concerns are addressed as approved projects are implemented.

Jeremy Bird, Chief Executive Officer of the MRC Secretariat, said the creation of a framework for regional and cross-sectoral cooperation on hydropower gives great impetus to sustainable development in the Lower Mekong Basin. The MRC believes, said Mr Bird, that developing cooperation and dialogue between countries, at multiple levels of society, can help ensure the growth of the hydropower industry is managed in a way that conserves cultural values, environmental resources, and the livelihoods of the people that depend upon them.

For more information please contact:

Aiden Glendinning, Acting Communications Officer.
MRC Secretariat,
Tel: 856 21 263 263 Ext 4703
Fax: 856 21 263 264
Mobile: (856) 20 559 9139




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