The four member countries of the Mekong River Commission (MRC) - Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam - have agreed that a decision on prior consultation concerning the proposed Don Sahong Hydropower Project be taken to government level, the MRC said on its website.
The decision will be referred to the countries' governments because the MRC Council could not reach agreement on how to proceed with the proposed dam, which would be built on the Mekong River.
The issue had already been referred to the MRC Council after a special session on January 28, 2015, when the MRC Joint Committee could not reach agreement. The MRC Council is the highest governing body of the Commission and comprises the four member countries' water and environment ministers.
After further deliberations the MRC Council announced that there were still differing views among the countries on whether the prior consultation process should come to an end, but the matter will now be referred to their respective governments for resolution.
Article 35 of the 1995 Mekong Agreement stipulates that in the event that the Commission is unable to resolve a difference or dispute, the issue shall be referred to the governments “to take cognizance of the matter for resolution by negotiation through their diplomatic channels …”. If they find it necessary or beneficial, the governments can resort to mediation by mutual agreement according to the principles of international law.
The six-month prior consultation officially started on July 25, 2014. Over the course of the process the member countries discussed and evaluated the risks and benefits of the dam, which would generate 260MW of electricity and be located in one of the channels in the Mekong River's Siphandone area in southern Laos.
The notified member countries have expressed a range of concerns on the proposed project and have requested an extension of the prior consultation to have more time to collect additional data, according to the MRC.
Laos proposed to bring the prior consultation to a close, stating that they had considered and addressed the legitimate concerns of the other member countries in accordance with the stipulated Procedures for Prior Notification, Prior Consultation, and Agreement (PNPCA), under the 1995 Mekong Agreement.
Laos pledged to continue to cooperate with the MRC and committed to ensuring the sustainable development of the project.
After the matter is taken to the countries' governments, they may communicate their decision to the MRC Council for further proceedings, if necessary, to carry out their decision.
The Don Sahong Hydropower Project is the second dam in Laos to undergo the process of prior consultation. In September 2010 and for the first time since its founding in 1995, the MRC carried out a prior consultation for the 1285MW Xayaboury dam located on the Mekong mainstream.
Source: Vientiane Times