The 1995 Mekong Agreement that established the Mekong River Commission also established a series of protocols for Member Countries to notify each other if they wish to engage in any major infrastructure developments (such as hydropower schemes) on the Mekong or tributaries, particularly if those developments may have significant trans-boundary impact for people or the environment downstream.
These Procedures for Notification, Prior Consultation and Agreement (PNPCA) state that if a country is to build hydropower dams on a Mekong tributary, it must notify the Joint Committee of the MRC.
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 is triggered when the preparation of a mainstream dam advances to the stage where the Member Country makes as submission to the MRC. It will be applied to each project.
In considering proposals for mainstream hydropower developments, the Joint Committee must try and avoid inter-state disputes by resolving and determining if the development:
By June 2009, 28 notifications had been received by the Joint Committee for hydropower projects on Mekong tributaries.
Cambodia, Lao PDR and Thailand have provided official confirmation that they are investigating mainstream hydropower development options. Official notification to the Joint Committee is expected in the near future and when this occurs it will trigger the start of the official consultation process.
The MRC is supporting the various MRC bodies and national line-agencies in implementing the PNPCA. The Secretariat’s role is to assist the Joint Committee and facilitate the national-based review processes providing relevant MRC programme data, analysis and outputs, providing technical advice and supporting the multi-stakeholder participatory arrangements as appropriate and needed in each country.