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10 March 2008


MRC Hydropower Programme
Mr Do Manh Hung, Director of Operations Division, Mekong River Commission Secretariat

Distinguished Guests, Ladies & Gentlemen;
Throughout its history, the Mekong River Commission has promoted hydropower as a vital resource that can greatly improve the lives of the millions of people in the Lower Mekong Basin.

Today the stance of the MRC on hydropower is very clear. The hydropower potential of the Mekong River Basin is high and has barely been tapped. Meanwhile the energy demands of the region and of its neighbours, particularly China, are soaring, and there are substantial opportunities for trading of power between the countries in the region.

Hydropower is a clean, renewable energy source that does not consume water and can bring about a more balanced and equitable use of water between the wet and dry seasons, reducing flood peaks while delivering much needed water for irrigation in the dry season. All the Mekong countries include hydropower options in their development strategies. This power will bring in much needed revenues which will enable the governments of these nations to improve social structures by increasing spending on education, health and internal infrastructure.

The MRC has estimated the sustainable hydropower potential of the basin at around 30,000 megawatts. Of this thirteen thousand megawatts is on the mainstream, thirteen thousand megawatts on the Lao tributaries, two thousand two hundred megawatts on the Cambodian tributaries, and two thousand megawatts on the Vietnamese tributaries. To date 11 schemes have been completed in the LMB totalling some 1,600 megawatts or 5% of the potential. All of these are tributary projects.

The last year has seen a rapid acceleration in project development, both for schemes on tributaries and on the Mekong mainstream. We have also seen confirmation of the private sectorís interests in participating in this development. In the Lao PDR in particular, hydropower plans have been revised to more ambitious levels. All this prompted the recent 14th MRC Council Meeting to encourage the MRC Secretariat to assume a more pro-active role in supporting the Member States in decision making in the hydropower sector.

Distinguished Guests, Ladies & Gentlemen;
The MRC believes that successful development of the basinís power potential requires a wellstructured and integrated programme founded on basin-wide planning, with due regard to environmental and social aspects. Our current hydropower development strategy was formulated in 2001. Further work was conducted in 2005, when the MRC Secretariat established a hydropower task force and developed a project database covering existing and proposed schemes above five megawatts. A concept paper for a Hydropower Programme was developed and approved in August 2005, but a lack of funding prevented us from capitalising on this momentum.

In 2007 donor funding for this important programme was finally secured from several sources: France, the Japan-ASEAN Integration Fund, and most importantly Finland, all made contributions towards the start-up of an MRC Hydropower Programme. This will allow us to conduct a comprehensive and inclusive formulation process and start activities in highpriority areas. The programme will establish cooperation structures with hydropower bodies in the member countries and provide advice on the planning, construction, and operation of hydropower plants and dams, using the MRCís extensive records and data but also conducting supplementary studies to identify the best options for hydropower.

Stakeholder participation in hydropower development will be encouraged. To this end the MRC has formed a partnership with the Worldwide Fund for Nature and the Asian Development Bank to assess environmental criteria for hydropower development. A taskforce shall engage the hydropower industry, governments and international and local stakeholders to improve planning for hydro projects so that the manifold benefits will outweigh any negative impacts. 

MRC involvement in the hydropower sector is expected to focus on the strengthening of basin-wide cooperation between line agencies in the energy and water related sectors, and with the private sector, as well as helping the member countries to address issues by taking a broad perspective on all options, and by considering the sustainable development of water resources in general. Activities during the coming year will fall under four broad thematic headings:

Firstly, Hydropower Programme Formulation: a participatory programme will be formulated with the Member States, and with other stakeholders, taking note of relevant developments in the Lower Basin and in upper riparian countries. The strategic orientation of the programme will be redefined and detailed by drafting a programme document and implementation plan. Discrete high priority activities can begin.

Secondly, we will improve the concept of the MRC geo-spatial database of hydropower developments in the region by reviewing and complementing current data holdings, and providing guidance for the collection of additional data.

Thirdly, hydro developments will be included in basin-wide multi-sector planning, as part of phase two of the MRC Basin Development Plan process. This will involve making an initial triple-bottom line assessment of existing and planned hydropower and multi-purpose schemes in the Lower Mekong Basin, and in the upper riparian countries, with a particular focus on cumulative and trans-boundary impacts. It shall also define and analyse hydropower development scenarios for several time horizons, apply and guide further development of the MRCís assessment methodologies and tools, and advise on best practices and new approaches in planning, civil society participation, and integration of economic, social and environmental issues and concerns.

Finally, technical assistance on hydropower issues will be provided at the request of Member States. The MRC can supply expert opinion on regional and country developments as well as on individual schemes. We aim to take a pro-active role in the technical appraisal of notifications, and to facilitate mutual and balanced decision making. 

Distinguished Guests, Ladies & Gentlemen;
At this point in time the recruitment process for several international and riparian positions under the hydropower programme is ongoing. There is no doubt that this programme is overdue, but it is very definitely a high priority for the MRC now, and is an initiative that will receive a boost when our new CEO, Mr Jeremy Bird, joins the MRC Secretariat at the end of this month. Mr Bird has extensive experience within the hydropower industry, including a spell as a Senior Advisor and Team Leader in the independent World Commission on Dams. Given the current rate of development within the basin, it is crucial that the MRC begins a more pro-active role in the hydropower sector as soon as possible.

On that note I would like to thank our hosts and organisers for inviting the Mekong Ricer Commission to this important event, and to wish you all a fruitful conference and a pleasant stay in Danang.

Thank you. 



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