Posts tagged ‘Hydropower’

April 10, 2014

Vietnam: Laos should consult Mekong countries before building dam

Vietnam:  Laos should consult Mekong countries before building dam

Monday, April 07, 2014 08:18
Vietnam and Cambodia have once again asked Laos to consult with countries in the Mekong River Commission (MRC), a consultative body that works with lower basin countries – Thailand, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia – before moving forward with the potentiallyriskyDonSahong hydropower project.Minister of Natural Resources and EnvironmentNguyenMinhQuang told a press conference wrapping up the 2nd MRC Summit in HoChiMinh City Saturday that Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung and his Cambodian counterpart Hun Sen had made the request while meeting with LaosPMThongsingThammavong,TuoiTre (Youth) Newspaper reported.Quang said the two countries asked Laos to wait for the result of a Vietnam-initiated study on the impacts of the planned project on the main current of the Mekong River, scheduled to be released next year, before making its move.“We hoped Laos would also pay attention to the opinions of other countries in the region on the matter as well,” he said.

Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Ha Kim Ngoc told the press conference Vietnam considered the development of Laos as its own development, but both Vietnam and Cambodia agreed that hydropower development on the Mekong River’s main current must comply with MRC regulations so as not to badly affect countries on the lower basin.

In his speech at the plenary session of the 2nd MRC Summit, Dung said the Mekong River has become one of the five largest rivers in the world with the most serious reductions in flows recently.

The annual average flow of the Mekong River at Chieng Sen, the gateway to the Lower Mekong Basin, has been reduced by 10 percent over the past 30 years, he said.

“In Vientiane, Laos, the Mekong River has dried out to the point the people can walk across the river in the dry season.

“Meanwhile, in Thailand, the once calm Chao Phraya River inflicted huge floods of a national disaster level for months in 2011.

“In the Mekong River Delta of Vietnam, salinity intrusion happened for the first time in the areas of Tan Chau and Chau Doc of An Giang Province.”

According to Dung, to address such challenges, national efforts are not enough. Regional cooperation must be strengthened, particularly among the riparian countries, both upper and lower, through multilateral and sub-regional mechanisms such as the MRC, he said.

Last year, Vietnam also called on Laos to honor its pledge to consult with its neighbors before moving forward with the Don Sahong project.
The Vietnam National Mekong Committee sent a letter demanding Laos honor regional cooperation pledged by the countries in the 1995 Mekong Agreement. According to some sources, Cambodian and Thai committees also sent separate letters to Laos.

“We suggest that the proposed project needs to be considered under the prior consultation process,” states Vietnam’s letter.

Under the agreement, regulated by the MRC, a dam developer must notify or consult with member countries before beginning construction.
In October 2013, Laos notified the MRC of its intent to build the 260-megawatt Don Sahong dam, despite calls from foreign donors to consult neighbors that face a risk of depleted fish stocks and damaged livelihoods. Experts have also voiced concerns over the bad impacts of the project on the main current of the river.

Laos planned to start work on the project later this year.

The dam, to be developed by Malaysia’s Mega First Corporation Bhd, is the second of 11 dams planned by Laos along its stretch of the 4,900 km (3,044 mile) Mekong.

Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand have repeatedly voiced concerns about Laos failing to honor a consultation agreement on a bigger project, the US$3.5 billion, 1,260 megawatt Xayaburi dam for which it held a groundbreaking ceremony in late 2012.

Lao media reported April 3 that the project was 23 percent finished and is expected to be operational in 2019.

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Thanh Nien News

March 22, 2014

Cambodia: Neighbours wary of Laos dam plan

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Fri, 21 March 2014

In its race to cash in on hydropower without first addressing its downstream implications, Laos could pitch the region into a water crisis and jeopardise millions of Cambodian’s food security, conservation groups and Cambodian government officials said yesterday.

“Lao PDR is exploiting the Mekong River to develop its country though hydropower dams,” Tea Chhup, deputy secretary of state at the Ministry of Environment, said yesterday during a workshop on Laos’ Don Sahong Hydropower Project.

Surrounded by rapidly growing, energy hungry neighbours, Laos has made no secret of intentions to become the “battery of Southeast Asia,” proposing nine of the 11 planned Lower Mekong mainstream dams. But environmental groups are claiming that Laos has been anything but transparent in responding to mounting concerns about its use of the shared waters.

In January, Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand’s Mekong committees requested Laos halt plans for the 260-megawatt Don Sahong until studies assessing transboundary impacts assured little or reversible effects. Despite the demand, Laos announced last month that it would move forward with dam construction in December, according to Ame Trandem, Southeast Asia coordinator for International Rivers.

“Under international law, it’s Laos’ duty to do these studies before building,” Trandem said. “The Mekong should never be a testing ground for new technology.”

Last September, the Don Sahong’s developers published environmental and cumulative impact studies considering localised effects of the project, and in doing so, raised more red flags than assuaged fears.

“The scope of their study is only two kilometres, but we can assume the impact of their dam will extend beyond that and across the border to Cambodia,” said Danh Serey, a Ministry of Environment representative.

The studies also came under fire for alleged inconsistencies, a lack of baseline information about fish numbers and migration patterns and unsubstantiated claims about mitigation measures.

“The impact assessment questions the ‘viability’ of the [nearby] Irrawaddy Dolphin population; what they mean is, let’s not worry about endangered dolphins, let’s just build a dam,” said Gerry Ryan, a technical officer at WWF-Greater Mekong.

For its part, the Lao government maintained no short-cuts on dam construction or study were being taken.

“Mindful of potential environmental and social impacts, the government of Laos accepts that the process of hydropower development must be thoughtful, careful and practical,” said Viraphonh Viravong, vice minister at Laos’ Ministry of Energy and Mines. “Modifications to a project design can be made, and will be made, to ensure sustainability and environmental safeguards not just for years, but for decades.”

Contact authors: Laignee Barron and Shane Worrell
March 13, 2014

Laos to Break Ground on Don Sahong Dam in December

Laos to Break Ground on Don Sahong Dam in December

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Deputy Minister of Energy and Mines Viraponh Viravong speaks to reporters near the future Don Sahong dam site, Nov. 10, 2013.

Laos said it will begin formal construction on the controversial Don Sahong dam on the Mekong River in December, vowing to proceed with the project transparently to assuage fears over its potential environmental impact.

Preparatory work on the 260-megawatt dam began in July last year, but full-scale construction will proceed “in the beginning of December,” Deputy Minister of Energy and Mines Viraponh Viravong told the media during a tour of the project site.

“Work on a bridge and access roads are already underway,” Viraponh said.

“By the end of the year we will close the cofferdam [which allows water to be pumped out of the site] and will begin work on the Hou Sahong [channel],” he said.

The Don Sahong dam is to be located slightly more than 1 kilometer (0.75 mile) from the Lao-Cambodia border, will block the Hou Sahong channel—which environmental groups say is the only year-round channel for transboundary fish migration on the Mekong.

Viraponh said that contracts to purchase the electricity produced by the dam had already been signed, the concession to Malaysian dam developer Mega First Berhad mapped out and sent to lawmakers for approval, and that a loan agreement would be completed by May.

The electricity generated by the project will be fully sold to the national power utility Electricite du Laos (EDL) to meet increased demand for domestic power, state media reported.

He expressed confidence that the project “will bring development to the local area,” claiming it would have little impact on the region because it is a spillover dam that does not require flooding for a large reservoir.

“The people of the area will have a new way of living,” he said.

Viraponh spoke during the second day of a tour of the site for more than 100 representatives of member countries of the Mekong River Commission (MRC)—an intergovernmental body which oversees development on the waterway—development partners, international nongovernmental organizations, and Lao and foreign media.

The two-day visit was organized by the Lao government and Mega First as part of a bid to demonstrate transparency for the project and to address concerns over its impact on the environment and on riparian communities who rely on the Mekong for their livelihood.

Environment groups, including International Rivers, had warned that the project—part of Laos’s plans to become the “battery” of Southeast Asia by selling electricity to its neighbors—“spells disaster” for fish migration on the Mekong and threatens regional food security.

Villagers’ concerns

On Wednesday, villagers who will be relocated to make way for the dam told members of the media that they do not oppose the project, but want Mega First to provide them with an alternative to fishing, which they currently rely on as a source of food and income.

“If there is no alternative livelihood for us, we villagers are likely to stand against the project,” one resident said on condition of anonymity.

He said that the developer should provide assistance and jobs that would allow them to draw an income comparable to what they earn from their traditional work catching fish.

Another villager said that officials previously visited the area explaining to residents that the project would introduce new jobs, though it had been more than a month since they had heard any more information.

“On Jan. 27, they came to meet the villagers asking about our needs,” he said.

“They said that they would provide some sort of funding as assistance for us and that we would be able to pursue work in fields like animal husbandry, fish breeding, growing vegetables, or whatever we like.”

He said that he hoped the project developer would support them according to what they had been told during the January meeting, but expressed concern because there had been no follow up discussions.

On Wednesday in Champassak province, ahead of the visit to the dam site, Viraphonh told the delegation that the government has demanded that developers conduct extensive research on all potential environmental and social impacts of proposed hydropower projects, according to a report by the state-run Vientiane Times.

“We insist that studies be done professionally and thoroughly by recognized international experts and that the resulting analysis and technical data be disseminated wholly and honestly with other qualified experts for discussion,” he said.

Viraponh said that the government would continue to welcome comments from MRC member countries, development partners and environmentalists so it can improve the project’s final design and ensure its sustainability, according to the report.

Potential impacts

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) said recently that blocking the Hou Sahong channel would cause “permanent damage” to the Mekong basin’s fishery resources, which it valued at between U.S. $1.4 billion and $3.9 billion per year.

The group contends that water quality, sediment flow, habitat degradation and increased boat traffic brought on by the project, as well as explosives used in excavation, could decimate the Mekong’s remaining 85 endangered Irrawaddy dolphins.

It has called for suspension of the project “pending completion of independent, comprehensive and scientific trans-boundary studies,” adding that all additional studies should include transparent consultation with governments, civil society, and communities that would be affected by the proposed dam.

Laos’s announcement of plans to forge ahead with the Don Sahong in September 2013 also prompted objections from neighboring Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam, which said not enough study had been done on the project’s downstream impact.

An impact assessment carried out by Mega First claims that fish will be able to use other channels to migrate and that the dam’s environmental and social effects will be mitigated, but critics say that the study is based on flawed information.

Reported by RFA’s Lao Service. Translated by Somnet Inthapannha. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.

February 21, 2014

Laos: Hydropower has future potential in national development


Hydropower has future potential in national development

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Laos has huge hydropower potential. About 20 hydropower projects have been developed so far, tapping just 15 percent of the country’s hydroelectric potential.

Another 40 to 50 hydropower projects will be operational by 2025, generating income that will contribute to national development.

The statements were raised at the first meeting of a working group which was attended by more than 60 representatives from hydropower and construction companies.

International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group, and the Lao National Chamber of Commerce and Industry recently hosted the first meeting of a working group in Vientiane.

The aims of the meeting are to develop hydropower that is both commercially viable and environmentally sustainable.

“ Hydropower development is one of our country’s answers to poverty alleviation,” President of the Lao National Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Mr Sisavath Thiravong said.

“Now, our challenge is to make sure project sustainability is a priority for all companies. The turnout for the working group demonstrates that we all have a common interest – to develop hydropower projects in the Lao PDR more sustainably.”

The Hydropower Developers’ Working Group, which met for the first time on Wednesday, is the first of its kind in the Mekong region.

It aims to help hydropower and construction companies channel their concerns to the government, tackle business challenges, and develop hydropower that meets environmental and social best practices.

“The Hydropower Developers’ Working Group is a good opportunity to share our common concerns of sector-related issues,” said Milo Tang, Assistant Director of the Lao Project Department at China Southern Power Grid International.

“By raising environmental and social standards, we hope to lower risk and improve our financial performance.”

Following the meeting, participants attended a seminar on sustainable project financing and investment, and managing risks while addressing social and environmental responsibilities. Members have indicated that they are keen to learn about dam safety, environmental and social risk management, and technical and financial policies in future seminars.

“We are encouraged by the strong interest and support from stakeholders including project developers, utilities, and the government in establishing the Hydropower Developers’ Working Group,” said Simon Andrews, IFC Regional Manager for Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam.

“We expect the working group to help form a partnership between the government and companies to tackle issues affecting the sector and develop hydropower efficiently and sustainably.”

By Times Reporters
(Latest Update February 22, 2014)



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February 8, 2014

“Killing the Mekong”

Ruthless damming of Mekong river could displace millions

“Mekong River gives everything. Mekong river is mother,” says one local

“Killing the Mekong” – Asia – The Mekong river is on the brink, as damming on a massive scale destroys the environment and could consequently devastate millions of lives.

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Rich in extraordinary biodiversity, the Mekong River is the Amazon of South East Asia. But the construction of multiple dams threatens to have devastating effects on this energy and development-hungry region.

“Mekong River gives everything. Mekong river is mother,” says one local. The river’s cultural, environmental and economic significance is unmeasurable. But despite the threat of earthquakes, extinction of species and food shortages, the dream of hydropower – and the money it brings – is driving governments to turn its torrents into peaceful reservoirs. European consultant Poyry, who are working on the Xayaburi dam, have been accused by environmentalists of giving the Laotian government, “badly misleading advice”. Meanwhile, fisheries expert Ian Baird points out, “the very people that regional governments and international organizations are spending a lot of time trying to alleviate from poverty are the ones who are going to be impacted”.

Produced by Tom Fawthrup. Ref – 5864

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