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Mr Chanthavong Saignasith, Director-General, Lao National Mekong Committee Secretariat, Member of the MRC Joint Committee for the Lao PDR

Regional Multi-Stakeholder Consultation on the MRC Hydropower Programme
Vientiane, Lao PDR, 25-27 September 2008


Excellencies, Honourable members of the MRC Joint Committee, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

We now draw to the close of the first part of this consultation. As Mr Bird has explained, this is not yet the end of our work, for tomorrow morning there remains an important working session on formulation of the MRC Hydropower Programme. This you are encouraged to attend, and if you cannot, please be assured that our discussions over the last two days will have significant bearing on the way we structure and direct the programme.

Also tomorrow afternoon, many of you will join us on a trip to the Theun Hinboun power company site in Khammouane province. We will spend the evening in the town of Thakek, on the Mekong river, which enjoys splendid views of Nakhon Phanom on the other side of the river, and the karst mountains of central Laos behind the city. Over these mountains, on the plateau lies the Theun Hinboun power station, with its dam up on the next range of hills above the plateau. This facility doubled the GDP of Laos when it opened in 1998, illustrating the importance of hydropower to our economic planning and progress.

Over the last two days we have enjoyed frank discussion and a very interesting exchange of information. This event is the first of its kind in the Mekong region and will, I hope, come to be regarded as a landmark event in cooperation between our countries. It is clear that we all recognise the importance of data sharing and joint planning in the important and sensitive matter of hydropower development. This technology offers great rewards, but at the same time can carry much risk.

Cooperation, therefore, is essential to optimising our chances of creating a sustainable hydropower industry that can bring us the benefits of power and water control while minimising the disturbance to our natural environment and traditional way of life.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
I wish to sincerely thank you all for coming to join us here in Vientiane. You have made an enormous collective contribution to the debate here, and to the discussion on a wider basis across the Mekong basin. That all of you, from disparate backgrounds, with varying agendas and naturally different objectives can come together and hold such a constructive discourse, is very encouraging.

I hope this is only the first in a series of events that will feed into our national and regional planning processes, and assure you that we at the Lao government and the MRC take these discussions very seriously.

May I thank you once again and, for those of you unable to join us tomorrow, wish you a safe journey home.

Thank you.



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