Laos has complied with the procedures for notification, prior consultation and agreement under the 1995 Mekong Agreement before starting construction of the Xayaboury dam on the mainstream of the Mekong River, according to a senior official from the Lao National Mekong Committee Secretariat.
Lao National Mekong Committee Secretariat Deputy Secretary General, Aloune Xayavong, made the comment on Friday in response to a retired Thai senator and NGO officials who accused the Lao government of contravening the 1995 Mekong Agreement after beginning construction of the dam.
“It is a groundless accusation and all of the legal experts are well aware that we have not violated any international agreement,” he told Vientiane Times.
“I suspect that the people made this accusation because they wanted to discredit us and create dispute among the MRC member countries.”
Aloune said that as a signatory to the 1995 Mekong Agreement and founding member of the Mekong River Commission (MRC), Laos held prior consultations with MRC member countries concerning construction of the Xayaboury dam, and completed the process of prior consultation in April last year.
During the prior consultation process, Laos provided comprehensive information on the dam to MRC member countries. However, some member countries continued to express concern that construction of the dam would cause trans-boundary impacts.
“Laos could have begun construction of the dam immediately after completing the consultation process. But we did not because our neighbours were still concerned about the trans-boundary impacts. We then reviewed all of these concerns to maintain Mekong spirit and cooperation with our neighbouring nations,” Aloune said.
To address the concerns of neighbouring countries, the Lao government and the project developer hired reputable international experts Poyry and Compagnie National du Rhone (CNR) to redesign the dam, to ensure there would be no significant environmental impacts either up or downstream.
Aloune explained that the Xayaboury dam was a run-of-river dam and did not store large amounts of water, therefore it would not cause water flows to dry up downstream. The dam has a navigation lock so that boats can pass, built-in fish ladders so that fish can migrate, and a sediment flushing system that enables sediment to flow downstream.
“The Xayaboury dam is a state-of-the-art dam; it is a kind of transparent dam, which means it is a dam without a dam,” he said.
Under the 1995 Mekong Agreement, any MRC member country that wishes to use water or develop a project on the mainstream of the Mekong River or its tributaries must follow the prior consultation process.
If a country wants to use water from Mekong tributaries in both the wet and dry seasons, it is required to notify all of the MRC member countries.
If a country wants to use water from the mainstream of the Mekong River in the wet season, it needs to notify the other member countries. However, a country is required to enter into prior consultations with other member countries if it wants to divert water from the Mekong basin to other basins.
If a country wants to use water from the mainstream of the Mekong River in the dry season, it is required to have prior consultations with other member countries.
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