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MRC hosts Paklai dam discussion

Luang Prabang: The Mekong River Commission (MRC) yesterday hosted a regional meeting when Mekong stakeholders discussed the updated features of the planned Paklai dam on the Mekong River.
The Lao government requested in the middle of last year that the prior consultation process concerning the decade-old planned Paklai dam be initiated.
This process is in line with the 1995 Mekong Agreement and in support of the spirit of cooperation surrounding developments on the Mekong.
The MRC, which is mandated under the Mekong Agreement to manage the Mekong, officially kicked off the prior consultation process on August 8, 2018. It is scheduled to run until March.
The MRC, which is an inter-governmental organisation involving Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand, held the first regional information sharing session on the Paklai dam at the end of last year in Vientiane as the prior consultation process for the project.
The second session in Luang Prabang yesterday, which is also part of the 6th Regional Stakeholder Forum, gave Mekong stakeholders another opportunity to air their views.
Representatives from the Lao, Cambodian, Thai and Vietnamese governments, development partners, civil society, media, academia and investing firms attended the event.
 In addition, the MRC hosted a live Facebook session to hear comments from those who could not attend the consultation in person.
Speaking at the opening ceremony of the session, held at the Pullman Hotel, the CEO of the MRC, Dr An Pich Hatda, stressed the importance of the session, saying it was part of the six month prior consultation process for the proposed project.
“As I have always stressed, and wish to make clear again, the inclusion of stakeholder participants is crucial to our work - very important to this prior consultation process,” Dr Hatda said.
However, he said the prior consultation process should not be viewed as an endorsement of the project, adding that the 1995 MRC agreement does not authorise MRC members to veto any dam development projects on the Mekong.
Over the past years, the MRC has hosted a number of prior consultation processes for Mekong-based hydropower projects in Laos, namely the Xayaboury dam, Donsahong dam and Pakbaeng dam. These talks resulted in the Lao government having to redesign the proposed projects to minimise cross-border impacts and keep the Mekong cooperation spirit alive.
At yesterday’s session, the Lao government representative, Mrs Phakkavanh Phissamay, said her government was committed to implementing the 1995 Mekong Agreement and related procedures, in particular the prior consultation processes.
Mrs Phakkavanh, who is a Deputy Director General of the Natural Resources and Environment Policy Department at the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, said the Lao government highly valued constructive comments from different stakeholders and would use these as references to improve the design of proposed dams on the Mekong.
“Constructive comments that can improve the proposed project are always welcome. Even though the prior consultation on Paklai has an end date, our cooperation never ends,” she said.

By Ekaphone Phouthonesy
(Latest Update January 18, 2019)

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