Laos Hydroelectric Dam Projects Part II

Laos Rapids of the Nam Leuk

Second Mekong Dam: Don Sahong Dam (South Laos) in operation since October 2020

The second Mekong dam Don Sahong with 260 MW has also been in operation since October 2020. The concession period of the Malaysian Mega First Corp Bhd ends in 25 years.

A number of inconsistencies had preceded this dam construction too. Despite the controversies surrounding the construction of the Xayaburi Dam, construction of a second dam began in November 2013, the Don Sahong Dam in the south of the country.

The fishermen have not been allowed to set up their traditional fishing traps since construction began and the resettled villagers have not received any compensation years later. Activists and conservationists believed that Laos was violating the 1995 agreement to protect the Mekong because it had not waited for the MRC to respond. If a dam project is planned on the main stream of the Mekong, the project requires a regulated process of coordination between all of the lower Mekong riparian states before construction begins.

In June 2015, the four member states of the Mekong River Commission (MRC) Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand postponed the decision on how to proceed with the consultation process on the Don Sahong Dam in southern Laos to the levels of government of the individual countries. There should be decided by diplomatic channels. At the time, it remained unclear what the consequences would be and how the time horizon would be shaped. For a long time, no agreement on the progress of the process was reached within the Joint Committee or in the Mekong River Council, the highest body within the MRC. There were different perspectives as to whether the consultation process could be completed or whether further studies were required.

According to aristmarketing, International Rivers spoke of a trick by the Lao government and demanded that all decisions, including preparations for building a dam in the MRC, must be coordinated. Thailand saw its fears confirmed that Laos would set a precedent by enforcing the construction of the Xayaburi Dam. All three neighboring countries, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam, criticized the non-transparent behavior of the Lao government during the construction of the dam.

International Rivers warned of the negative impact on the last river dolphins in Laos and the populations of the great Mekong catfish. They predicted that the neighboring Khonpaphaen Falls, a tourist attraction, will have significantly less water once the dam goes into operation.

The Mekong on the Lao-Cambodian border is a part of the ecosystem that is particularly worthy of protection, because fish stocks migrate back and forth and spawn here. The arm on which the dam was built is the only one through which water flows all year round, it connects the upper and lower parts of the Mekong. The Laotian side was working on supplying two other tributaries of the Mekong with water all year round so that the fish population could continue to get through.

Photo gallery of the area around the Sahong dam.

Third dam under construction: Pak Beng Dam (Northern Laos)

Although there is still no agreement on how to deal with the messy situation of the two dams, construction work on the third dam in the Mekong in Pak Beng, a village in the north of the country, not far from the border with Thailand is already beginning.

The prior consultation process was opened in December 2016, and the first meeting of the Joint Committee Working Group (JCWG) of the MRC took place in January 2017. International Rivers warns of the negative effects of this project, criticizes the unsatisfactory process flow and points out that those affected do not have the opportunity to participate.

Fourth dam planned: Pak Lay (Northern Laos)

In 2018, Laos submitted documents for another dam to the Mekong River Commission. The dam construction should start in 2022 and be completed in 2029 and deliver 770 MW upon completion. This dam will also have negative social and ecological consequences, there are protests from neighboring countries, including Thailand.

Fifth dam submitted to the MRC for the Prior Consultation Process: Luang Prabang (Northern Laos)

Another dam in northern Laos with negative effects similar to those of the other dams is being planned and submitted to the MRC. Its completion is planned for 2027. Here, too, there are concerns from neighboring countries and objections from Thai NGOs, with Vietnam in this case responding to the project rather positively.

Sixth dam submitted to the MRC for the Prior Consultation Process: Sanakham (Central Laos)

In May 2020, the sixth Sanakham Dam was submitted for the consultation process. Like the other dams, these plans also cause protests in neighboring countries and by environmental organizations.

Laos Rapids of the Nam Leuk