Committee agrees to move forward on work to develop 912-MW Pak Beng hydropower in Laos

A Joint Committee Working Group has agreed to implement a six-month prior consultation process for the proposed 912-MW Pak Beng hydropower plant on the Mekong River in Lao PDR.

The working group consisted of representatives from Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand and Vietnam and gathered at the Mekong River Commission (MRC) Secretariat in Vientiane, Laos. The committee agreed to hold a regional stakeholder meeting in February and a field visit to the Pak Bent site in April.

Pak Beng is a run-of-river project proposed for the northern territory and will have a capacity of 912 MW and average annual generation of 4,775 GWh. It will be located between the 1,750-MW Jinghong hydro project in China and the 1,285-MW Xayaburi hydroelectric facility in Laos.

“The prior consultation will allow us as the MRC member countries and other relevant stakeholders to discuss and provide view on the Pak Beng hydropower project,” said Dr. Inthavy Akkharath, Acting Secretary General of the Lao National Mekong Committee, Joint Committee member for Lao PDR and chairperson of the meeting. “We will review if the Pak Beng project reflects a reasonable and equitable use of the Mekong River system and how it could be done to avoid, minimize and mitigate the negative impacts, especially the ones of transboundary nature.

The prior consultation is part of MRC’s procedural rules on cooperation on water use of the Mekong mainstream. In this process, the notified member countries would review technical aspects of the project, assess any possible impact on the environment and livelihoods among the riparian communities, and suggest measures to address those concerns.

The Pak Beng site has been considered for development at least since 2007, when a memorandum of understanding was signed for a feasibility study of the project.

MRC is an intergovernmental body responsible for cooperation on the sustainable management of the Mekong Basin. Members include Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand and Vietnam.

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Elizabeth Ingram is content director for the Hydro Review website and HYDROVISION International. She has more than 17 years of experience with the hydroelectric power industry. Follow her on Twitter @ElizabethIngra4 .

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