Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon urged authorities concerned to discuss and find ways to mitigate the possible environmental impact from the Sanakham Dam project in Laos in the upcoming scheduled public hearings.
“[The committee] is concerned about the impact of the dam, as it is located just two kilometres away from the Thai border. As such, related agencies have been ordered to focus on and analyse the impact of the dam on water currents and sediments, fisheries, boat navigation and safety, especially in relation to the dam’s structural integrity,” said Gen Prawit on Monday, in his capacity as the chairman of the National Mekong River Committee.
Gen Prawit made the remarks at after the committee met to prepare ahead of the four public hearings on the project, which will be held in provinces crossed by the Mekong River.
Sanakham Dam is the latest of the six hydroelectric dam projects planned by the Lao government. Its developers are scheduled to begin the construction of the dam sometime this year.
The dam, which has a total generation capacity of 684-megawatts, will cost about US$2 billion (62.4 billion baht) to build. When completed, it would mainly sell the electricity it generates to Thailand.
Monday’s meeting also saw the schedule for the public hearings confirmed, with the first one to be held in Loei in the middle of this month, followed by a second hearing in Bueng Kan in October. The third hearing will be held in December in Mukdahan, followed by the final hearing in either Loei or Nong Khai in January next year.
The hearings are required under the Procedures for Notification, Prior Consultation and Agreement (PNPCA) outlined by the Mekong River Commission for the project.
The MRC is a regional, intergovernmental organisation which works directly with the governments of Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam to jointly manage the Mekong River in a sustainable way as a shared resource.
Member countries which are planning to construct a project along the Mekong River must carry out prior consultations with local residents and authorities before proceeding. While public consultations are mandatory for projects with transboundary impact, ultimately the decision to go ahead rests with the initiating government.
Villagers in Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam have spoken out about the impact of the dams built by China and Laos along the Mekong River, saying such projects have altered water and sediment flow, thus adversely affecting fisheries downstream.
Some conservationists are reportedly calling for the Sanakham Dam to be scrapped altogether, with others urging Laos and China to embrace renewable resources such as solar and wind energy, which have less transboundary impact than hydroelectric dams.