MRC Launches Programme to Monitor Impacts of Lao Hydro Plants

AKP Phnom Penh, February 24, 2020 —

The Mekong River Commission (MRC) announced Monday the launch of a pilot programme to monitor impacts of the Xayaburi and Don Sahong hydro plants in Laos.

In a statement, the MRC said the programme would “advise on measures to address any negative effects from the existing and future Mekong mainstream hydropower projects.”

Dr So Nam, chief environmental management officer at the MRC Secretariat in Vientiane, said the programme would provide standard operating procedures for joint environment monitoring (JEM) of mainstream hydro projects.

“The overall objective of the JEM is to systematically collect, generate and share reliable and scientific data and information through a standardised basin wide joint environmental monitoring programme on site-specific issues that have cross-national implications,” he said.

He added that monitoring in 2020 and 2021 would allow teams to trial and refine approaches and methods to be applied basin wide and incorporated into core MRC monitoring work.

Dr So Nam said the pilot programme involved five disciplines – hydrology and hydraulics, sediment, water quality, aquatic ecology, and fish and fisheries.

Data-collection equipment will be installed in at least three locations at each dam, depending on the discipline. At least two monitoring sites will be located upstream from and within impoundment areas. Downstream areas will have at least one monitoring site.

With support from Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ),  hydro developers and specialists from Cambodia, Laos, Thailand Vietnam and the MRC Secretariat will work together throughout the process, the statement said.

“National teams from each Mekong country will be trained on how to collect the data,” it said, adding that reports would be shared publicly.  “These reports will include initial findings and encountered challenges and shortcomings of the proposed monitoring approaches and methodologies, which will be used to update the current JEM programme.”

With preliminary findings, “we will be able to understand the effectiveness of the dam facilities, including fish passes and sediment flushing gates,” Dr So Nam said. “From there, we hope to identify some practical adaptive management actions and initial mitigation measures that could eventually help address some of the potential impacts from the two already existing mainstream dams.”

The Xayaburi and Don Sahong power plants are the first two hydro projects on the mainstream of the Lower Mekong.

Cambodia, Thailand, Viet Nam and other stakeholders have called for proper and systematic assessments of impacts from mainstream dams once they go online.

By Sao Da