Despite Ame Trandem’s claims to the contrary, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic is committed to cooperating with our neighbour riparian countries in a constructive and mutually beneficial manner to achieve sustainable development of the Mekong River Basin.
We have studied development of a 260-megawatt run-of-river scheme at Don Sahong in the Siphandone region of Laos for eight years.
We have carried out the mandates of the Procedures for Notification, Prior Consultation and Agreement (PNPCA) by submitting this project for notification and later for prior consultation. The notified countries have had more than a year to fully discuss and evaluate the potential impacts of the proposed use.
The Mekong River Commission’s expert groups have confirmed that during operation of the dam, there will be no transboundary impacts on water quality and ecosystems, hydrology, sediment balance or freedom of navigation. Turbidity and the possibility of spills during construction can be managed by state-of-the-art engineering practices.
We recognise there is much concern about fish migration. Scientists, local community and Don Sahong staff continue to compile data on the various aquatic species that migrate through the area. As you are aware, they have been widening and deepening channels adjacent to Don Sahong, and removing natural and man-made barriers. This work on “natural fish passages” virtually assures that fish will migrate through the area year-round. Over time, any impediments to migration that are detected can be corrected. With proper conservation of wild stock and development of fish farms, there will be more fish, not less fish.
The Lao PDR understands the call for assessment of transborder impacts and migratory fish behaviour beyond our borders. While this is not the responsibility of the project, the Lao PDR is delighted to collaborate with the MRC in setting up a task force to undertake this work. If member countries want comprehensive studies of fish migration from the Mekong Delta and Tonle Sap, to and from the 3-S (the Sesan, Srepok and Sekong rivers) and upstream reaches, we are also delighted to cooperate with the MRC in pursuing these studies as well.
We heartfully appreciate the constructive criticism and informed comments we have received as a result of the PNPCA. All legitimate concerns will be addressed and, as warranted, applied in mitigating potential impacts.
The Lao government has duly complied with our obligations under the 1995 Mekong Agreement.
Having concluded the prior consultation process in accordance with the Mekong Agreement, the Lao government has already informed member countries that it will proceed with plans to develop the project for the benefit of the Lao people.
We appreciate the participation of those civil society groups that have offered constructive input to improve the project. Sadly, some NGOs – including International Rivers and WWF – chose to boycott the prior consultation process and urged others to join them. They have attempted to divide member countries against one another and destroy cooperation between the countries, but they have failed.
Once again, we reiterate our heartfelt gratitude and appreciation to all member countries, development partners and international organisations for having supported the Lao PDR’s plans to develop, protect and manage natural resources within our territory.
Together, we will move forward in a responsible and sustainable manner for the social and economic well being of the Lao people, thus, contributing to the prosperity to the Mekong subregion.
Dr Daovong Phonekeo is the director general for the Department of Energy Policy and Planning for the Lao Ministry of Energy and Mines.