The government of Finland has awarded 2 million euros (US$2.9 million) to the four-nation Mekong River Commission (MRC) to help develop the MRC hydropower program and two other river-related programs.
Finland Ambassador H.E. Lars Backstrom and MRC Officer in Charge Do Manh Hung signed the funding agreement November 7 in Vientiane.
The agreement allots 1 million euros (US$1.4 million) to enable MRC to start up its hydropower program, which is to promote efficient and socio-economically and environmentally appropriate development of hydropower in the MRC member countries, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam.
The MRC estimates the hydropower potential of the Lower Mekong Basin is about 30,000 MW: 13,000 MW on the mainstream, 13,000 MW on Laotian tributaries, 2,200 MW on Cambodian tributaries, and 2,000 MW on Vietnamese tributaries. To date, 11 schemes have been completed in the Lower Mekong Basin, on tributaries, totaling 1,600 MW. Mainstream projects in Yunnan Province of China, where the river is called Lancang, represent 23,000 MW, of which less than 3,000 MW has been developed. (HNN 10/12/07)
Another 750,000 euros (US$1 million) from Finland goes to a Junior Riparian Professional program to train 40 young professionals at MRC over four years as part of MRC capacity building. The final 250,000 euros (US$366,000) is for MRC’s Water Management Trust Fund that enables the agency to respond to short-term needs of member countries.
Hung thanked the Finland government for its continued support of Mekong programs. He said Finland already agreed this year to provide more than US$8 million to support implementation of MRC’s new Information and Knowledge Management Program.
In October, the government of Denmark awarded 3 million kroner (US$535,000) to the MRC to support capacity building for integrated water resources management and strengthening the commission’s management capacity.
Groups urge Mekong commission to protect against six dam proposals
A letter was sent to the Mekong River Commission November 12 by 201 organizations and individuals from 30 countries urging the MRC to protect against proposals to build six dams on the mainstream of the Mekong River.
The environmental and citizen groups warned that the commission has failed to uphold the 1995 Mekong Agreement by taking no action on revived plans to build six dams.
�We are aware that the governments of Lao PDR, Cambodia, and Thailand have granted permission to Thai, Malaysian, and Chinese companies, to conduct feasibility studies for up to six large hydro dams on the Mekong River,� the groups wrote. �These same six sites — four in Laos, one in Cambodia, and one on the Thai-Laos border — were recommended by Canadian and French consultants in a report published by the Mekong Secretariat in Bangkok in 1994.�
The groups said the dams did not go forward at that time, at least partly because they were publicly condemned as too costly and environmentally damaging.
The group Toward Ecological Recovery and Regional Alliance (TERRA) identified the projects and development permissions as:
o Don Sahong Dam (estimated at 240 MW) at Khone Falls, Champasak Province, Laos, feasibility study memorandum of understanding (MOU) in March 2006 between Mega First Corp. Bhd of Malaysia and the government of Laos;
o Xayabouri Dam, Xayabouri Province, Laos, feasibility study MOU in May 2007 between Ch. Karnchang Public Co. Ltd. of Thailand and the government of Laos;
o Paklay Dam (estimated at 1,320 MW) Xayabouri Province, Laos, feasibility study MOU in June 2007 between SinoHydro Corp. of China, China National Electronics Import, and the government of Laos (HNN 6/22/07);
o Pak Beng Dam (estimated at 972 MW) Oudomxay Province, Laos, feasibility study MOU in August 2007 between Datang International Power Generation Co. Ltd. of China and the government of Laos;
o Sambor Dam (estimated at 2,625 MW) Kratie Province, Cambodia, feasibility study MOU in October 2006 between China Southern Power Grid Co. and the government of Cambodia; and
o Ban Koum Dam (estimated at 2,050 MW) Ubon Ratchathani Province, Thailand, feasibility study commissioned by Thailand Ministry of Energy currently being conducted by Panya Consultants Co. Ltd. and Mako Consultants.
�At the very least, the MRC should be providing some measure of professional oversight and technical assessment of the proposed dam projects,� the groups wrote, �including an open and participatory review of the feasibility studies prepared by Thai, Malaysian, and Chinese dam builders.�