Ministry of Energy and Mines

Department of Energy Business

Regional Collaboration on Hydropower Development on International Rivers

 Seville, Spain on 9-11 October 2017

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Regional Collaboration on Hydropower Projects on the Mekong River

The Mekong is one the largest river in Southeast Asia. The basin drains a total land area of approximately 795,000 km2 from the eastern watershed of the Tibetan Plateau to the Mekong Delta in the South. The Mekong River flows around 3,000 miles through China, continuing into Myanmar, Lao PDR, Thailand, Cambodia and Viet Nam before emptying into the South China Sea. Laos is situated in the lower stretch of the Mekong River, parts of which pass through the Lao territory and some sections make a border with Myanmar and Thailand. Of the total water flow, around 36 percent is contributed from several main tributaries in the Lao territory.

The Mekong River Commission (MRC) was founded by four member countries in 1957. It is the only inter-governmental organization that works directly with the governments of Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand and Viet Nam to jointly manage the shared water resources and the sustainable development of the Mekong River. Myanmar and Yunnan Province of China are the observers to the Commission. The MRC passively managed developmental activities related to the water use from the outset due to unstable political climate in the region at the time. The MRC started formalizing its river management in 1995 when the Agreement for the Cooperation on the Sustainable Development of the Mekong (1995-Agreement) was signed by four member countries including Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Several studies on hydropower development on the lower stretch of the Mekong River were conducted since the early 1960s. Studies first moved to action when Laos initiated the development of Xayabury Hydropower Project (XHPP) in 2007. Construction started in 2012 and operation is scheduled for 2019. Designed in a run-off river scheme with the installed capacity of 1,285MW (see Annex 1), XHPP comprises a powerhouse, dam cum sediment flushing gates, navigation locks, fish passage, and auxiliary components in accordance with the requirements as set forth in the 1995-Agreement.

Abiding by the rules as so accorded, Laos as the host consulted with other member countries of the MRC before starting the construction of XHPP. According to provisions of the 1995-Agreement, XHPP will use water in both dry and wet seasons. A prior consultation process was undertaken during 2011 to 2012. During the prior consultations concerns of the member countries about potential impacts on inter alias, Mekong Delta area, water flow, fish migration, sediment flow, and navigation were addressed. In accommodating comments as received from the member countries, Laos redesigned several components of XHPP. Following the construction of XHPP, 260-MW Donsahong HPP as the second mainstream project began its construction on one of the many creeks of the Mekong River wetland area in the South just two years ago. Donsahong XHPP went through the same prior consultation process of that of XHPP. The 980-MW Pakbeng HPP as the third hydropower project to be constructed on the main stream of the Mekong River just completed its prior consultation process earlier this year.  

About the Author

Dr. Xaypaseuth PHOMSOUPHA, Director General of Department of Energy Businesshas taken up several executive positions related to the Lao power sector since 1991. He has been directly responsible for drafting and negotiating legal documents for project financing of a number of IPP projects that supply domestic grids and export electricity to neighboring countries. Dr. Phomsoupha has led government negotiation teams to negotiate the concession agreements and other relevant project agreements to which the government of Laos is party. Dr. Phomsoupha graduated with a doctorate in public policy and public administration at Walden University, Minneapolis, USA. Prior to his doctoral degree, Dr. Phomsoupha obtained diplomas in financial and legal disciplines from City University Hong Kong, Georgetown University, USA, BA from the University of Economics in Prague, Czech Republic and advanced Diploma and MA from the Australian National University in Canberra.

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Regional Collaboration on Hydropower Projects on the Mekong River

The Mekong is one the largest river in Southeast Asia. The basin drains a total land area of approximately 795,000 km2 from the eastern watershed of the Tibetan Plateau to the Mekong Delta in the South. The Mekong River flows around 3,000 miles through China, continuing into Myanmar, Lao PDR, Thailand, Cambodia and Viet Nam before emptying into the South China Sea. Laos is situated in the lower stretch of the Mekong River, parts of which pass through the Lao territory and some sections make a border with Myanmar and Thailand. Of the total water flow, around 36 percent is contributed from several main tributaries in the Lao territory.

The Mekong River Commission (MRC) was founded by four member countries in 1957. It is the only inter-governmental organization that works directly with the governments of Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand and Viet Nam to jointly manage the shared water resources and the sustainable development of the Mekong River. Myanmar and Yunnan Province of China are the observers to the Commission. The MRC passively managed developmental activities related to the water use from the outset due to unstable political climate in the region at the time. The MRC started formalizing its river management in 1995 when the Agreement for the Cooperation on the Sustainable Development of the Mekong (1995-Agreement) was signed by four member countries including Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Several studies on hydropower development on the lower stretch of the Mekong River were conducted since the early 1960s. Studies first moved to action when Laos initiated the development of Xayabury Hydropower Project (XHPP) in 2007. Construction started in 2012 and operation is scheduled for 2019. Designed in a run-off river scheme with the installed capacity of 1,285MW (see Annex 1), XHPP comprises a powerhouse, dam cum sediment flushing gates, navigation locks, fish passage, and auxiliary components in accordance with the requirements as set forth in the 1995-Agreement.

Abiding by the rules as so accorded, Laos as the host consulted with other member countries of the MRC before starting the construction of XHPP. According to provisions of the 1995-Agreement, XHPP will use water in both dry and wet seasons. A prior consultation process was undertaken during 2011 to 2012. During the prior consultations concerns of the member countries about potential impacts on inter alias, Mekong Delta area, water flow, fish migration, sediment flow, and navigation were addressed. In accommodating comments as received from the member countries, Laos redesigned several components of XHPP. Following the construction of XHPP, 260-MW Donsahong HPP as the second mainstream project began its construction on one of the many creeks of the Mekong River wetland area in the South just two years ago. Donsahong XHPP went through the same prior consultation process of that of XHPP. The 980-MW Pakbeng HPP as the third hydropower project to be constructed on the main stream of the Mekong River just completed its prior consultation process earlier this year.  

About the Author

Dr. Xaypaseuth PHOMSOUPHA, Director General of Department of Energy Businesshas taken up several executive positions related to the Lao power sector since 1991. He has been directly responsible for drafting and negotiating legal documents for project financing of a number of IPP projects that supply domestic grids and export electricity to neighboring countries. Dr. Phomsoupha has led government negotiation teams to negotiate the concession agreements and other relevant project agreements to which the government of Laos is party. Dr. Phomsoupha graduated with a doctorate in public policy and public administration at Walden University, Minneapolis, USA. Prior to his doctoral degree, Dr. Phomsoupha obtained diplomas in financial and legal disciplines from City University Hong Kong, Georgetown University, USA, BA from the University of Economics in Prague, Czech Republic and advanced Diploma and MA from the Australian National University in Canberra.

Annex 1